Imagine what it would be like if you had a movie theatre in your house. You could enjoy the big screen experience at home (no driving through crazy traffic), see films whenever you wanted, eat and drink while watching (and I’m not talking about coffee or colas), have friends over, throw movie parties – you could practically live there.
Architect Sonia Bagga actually has a plush 12-seater movie theatre in her Gurgaon house, but she and her husband, Ashish, are made of sterner stuff and see movies on an average of once a week. “On a lazy Sunday afternoon, or a Saturday night,” she says. “We often have friends over for movie screenings or special events (an IPL final, for instance), and the kids invite friends for sleepovers.” The next room houses their DVD library, from favourites like Om Shanti Om to Agatha Christie whodunits.
But what made Sonia and her husband create what can easily pass off as a small multiplex audi (it’s 24x14 feet) in their home, complete with luxurious lazy boy recliners, a 10x5 feet screen, thin bands of glowing blue step lights and recessed roof lights?
“When my husband and I decided to move to Gurgaon from Delhi in 2005, we were really worried that we were going to live so far away,” she says. “So we decided to make our home a self-contained retreat.” Before building their dream home, they worked out a wish list. Entertainment was high on their agenda – and their children’s as well. “The kids wanted a Gold Class PVR theatre at home!” laughs Sonia. The parents didn’t think it was such a bad idea either.
So Sonia commandeered part of the basement and began sourcing the technical paraphernalia as well as the movie theatre-type chairs, glamorous carpet (red with blue stars), movie star posters, each one framed by small glittery lights, and popcorn and espresso machines. The room was sound-proofed, a DVD player was connected to a projector and Ashish picked up Jamo speakers.
And the PVR-style audi was ready.
— Poonam Saxena
Dinner and a movie? This will be interesting, I thought as I picked up my tickets for the Cine Diner experience at the Big Cinemas multiplex in R City Mall, Ghatkopar, Mumbai. For that’s what this unique attraction (the only one of its kind in the world, according to Big Cinemas) is about – a chance to eat a proper meal while watching a newly released film. This screen can seat 40 people only, in combinations of two, four and six people. The first surprise was the interior. The seating arrangements were brown couches arranged in semi-circular fashion around white tables (laid with place mats, cutlery and tableware) that came complete with a call button to push for service.
I pushed the button and when a deferential waiter materialised, ordered popcorn. Even if I know that pasta is on the menu (and it is, along with mocktails, tea/coffee and dessert), I can’t contemplate a movie without popcorn. Looking around, I saw many of the couches filling up with families – and they were at least three feet away from where I was sitting pretty.
Before the national anthem rolled, I ordered the rest of my meal – fresh lime soda, a chicken seekh roll and veggie pasta. As one staff member took my order, another filled my water glass. Then as the lights began to dim, I settled back to watch
Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani.
What can I say? It was a relief to watch a movie knowing I didn’t have to worry about where to eat dinner later. The food was surprisingly good, considering I was eating dishes made in a kitchen attached to a multiplex. The wait staff was adept at serving when the action on screen didn’t demand my full attention, and even managed to ensure my water glass stayed full despite the darkened setting. And no, the dinner didn’t distract me from the action on screen. The only disappointment? I caught myself thinking – I should come back here for a better movie.
— Mignonne Dsouza
____________________________________________________________________________________________At the point where New Delhi morphs into Old Delhi is a bustling street which houses one of Delhi’s best kept secrets – a 55-year-old grand 980-seater cinema hall called Delite. In this age of multiplexes, if you still want a full movie experience – to sit comfortably in a balcony, facing a screen which is the right distance from your seat (as opposed to sitting in a medium-sized room with the screen barely a few feet away), to soak in the gracious ambience of an old-world theatre – head to Delite on Asaf Ali Road.
Buy a Rs 90 ticket (you can’t buy anything more expensive even if you wanted to) and enter another time zone, reminiscent of a quieter, more genteel age. Delite’s owner, Shashank Raizada, has renovated the theatre extensively but thankfully, he’s kept its nostalgic charm intact. There are no bright primary colours or plastic counters; instead you’ll find polished wood wall panelling, gleaming granite floors, ornamental mirrors and brass fittings.
While you wait for the auditorium doors to open, you can go to the refreshment counters (sorry, I just can’t bring myself to call them concession stands) and buy one of Delite’s famous giant samosas, each one like a full meal and priced at 30 rupees; or you can pick up a chuski (hygienically made in a machine). If you want to be predictable, you can go for the popcorn or coffee or French fries or ice cream and cola. And you can actually sit at a table and eat because Delite has a proper restaurant area right next to the refreshment counters, and it can easily seat a hundred people.
During the interval, if you decide to go to the loo, you’ll be in for a surprise. Done up in Italian marble with pristine white sinks, it’s spotlessly clean and spacious (most cinema loos are so small, you might fracture your arm if you try and turn around).
When the movie ends, you exit into a long corridor which has framed black and white prints on the wall, of all the notable personages who have come to Delite over the years – Prime Ministers and Presidents (Jawaharlal Nehru, S Radhakrishnan, Rajendra Prasad), movie stars (Ashok Kumar, Madhubala, Shammi Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Nargis, among others).
I’ve been seeing films in Delite for years, but I can’t say the same for most people I know. Sadly, they automatically think multiplexes when they think of going to the cinema. Perhaps Delite really does belong to another world.
— Poonam Saxena
For the last three weeks, my home has been under siege by painters, carpenters and electricians – all engaged in a mammoth makeover that seems never-ending. We’ve packed away our TV, disconnected our DVD and rolled up the wires of our cable connection.
But I haven’t had to give up my favourite hobby of watching movies, even through the presence of the workers means that I have not been able to head to a cinema for the longest time. Every night, I snuggle up in bed, put on my headphones, grab something comforting to eat, and slide a DVD into my trusty laptop.
Lots of people don’t enjoy watching a movie on a computer. And if we’re talking about a desktop, I’m one of them. I hate sitting on a rigid chair in front of the screen, or squinting to see details of costumes and landscapes from halfway across the room. But on a laptop, movie watching becomes an extremely intimate experience. You’re so close to the screen, you can reach out and touch it. You can gaze into the eyes of the characters, linger over every detail of their costumes, feel their emotions, and even almost hear their every breath. You don’t get that same feeling on your TV screen, no matter how big it is.
The other thing I love about movies on a laptop is how private an experience it can be. Curled up in a darkened bedroom, plugged into my headphones, no one can tell what I am watching – whether I’m laughing at Munnabhai MBBS, gasping at A Wednesday, listening to the songs of Mamma Mia, or watching as James Bond performs another impossible stunt in Quantum of Solace. So you can pursue your favourite activity at any time, without disturbing others in the house.
— Mignonne Dsouza
For an avid movie buff like me, a chance to enjoy the plush comfort of a Gold Class lounge seat at PVR Cinemas was not an opportunity I could pass up easily. So I happily wended my way to Select City Walk at Saket, New Delhi, to watch a 11 pm show of Madhur Bhandarkar’s latest release,
I had heard a lot about the comforts on offer at the exclusive lounge – including luxurious seats, gourmet cuisine and personalised service – and so was really looking forward to the experience. A separate entryway for gold class ticket holders and a red-carpeted staircase took me down to a neon-lit lounge area. Not bad, was my first reaction. But where was the personalised service PVR boasts of? Shouldn’t there have been someone to escort patrons down from the main cinema lobby?
I entered the Gold Lounge, which wasn’t bad to sit around in while I waited for the movie to begin. Coffee-table books of biographies of actors and actresses and memorabilia on cinema dotted the side tables – which is a nice touch – but a little more lighting could have served a reader’s cause too.
I decided to use the loo before the film started, expecting a little more space, style and grandeur, considering the ‘exclusive’ nature of the lounge. Unfortunately, I discovered that there were no tissues, and the hand dryer was not working.
Even just outside the screen, I looked in vain for an usher to guide me to my seat. No luck. In fact, it was only after I walked in and stood around for a couple of minutes that someone came hurrying up to guide me to my seat.
But most of my irritation subsided when I sank into the plush chair, pushed some buttons, adjusted my legrest and snuggled up under the light quilt that was placed on the side. The 40-seater screen was cosy and comfortable, and definitely a refreshing change from regular crowded halls with patrons’ incessantly ringing mobiles and noisy crowds.
After I had stretched myself out on one of the well-cushioned chairs – they were simply fantastic – I waited for my complimentary food and drink. Soon enough, it came – apple juice in a champagne glass. After that, nothing. I expected popcorn – surely that would be on the house, I reasoned. After all, who goes to the movies without popcorn?
But no, I realised that popcorn was not included in the ticket price. Neither was a bottle of water. The ‘gourmet menu,’ also chargeable and not really extensive, was priced between Rs 250 to Rs 400.
After the interval, I opted for mutton biryani and mushroom pasta. Both were decent portions, served with nice cutlery, and the plates were easy to hold. The food was okay.
So finally, when you add it all up, PVR’s gold class lounge has very comfortable seating and polite staff who attend to you as soon as you ring the buzzer. That’s it.
— Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi
At 2 pm, an hour away from its ‘Monday matinee,’ Pradip Talkies in south Kolkata’s Tollygunge area is as dead as the corpse in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro. Downed shutters, closed windows: inconspicuous, guarded, enigmatic. The name Pradip doesn’t mean a lot to anyone in Kolkata; at least, that’s what they claim. Ask around, you won’t get more than the sly smile, or a little giggle.
Up until five years ago, Pradip’s chief claim to fame was that it was routinely flooded, twice a day, by the waters of the Tolly Nullah, a stream that eventually hooks up with the Hooghly. Thus, the theatre’s public address system would solemnly advise patrons to take off their footwear and put their feet up as high tide approached. Stories about lazily floating shoes and soggy socks are an integral part of Pradip’s nearly 50-year history.
The flooding, sadly, is a thing of the past owing to the Metro railway, so now, nothing interrupts your viewing of the quasi-porno fare that the theatre has dished out in hour-long doses for longer than anyone can remember. Now you know why they giggle.
So on a drowsy Monday afternoon, about 15 minutes before show time, the usher, the gateman, the ticket checker materialise out of nowhere; they cast a glance at the stubs (Rs 21, balcony, pink, and Rs 20 rear stall, green), and ignore the professor-type (satchel, glasses, 50-plus), the officer (formal wear, looking directly at his toes), the mason and the taxi driver. The film on offer: Pyaar Se Dil Bhardhe (sic).
Rickety red seats, decaying yellow-red walls, and the hum of rusty fans surround the audience (men only), around 20 on the balcony, avoiding eye contact. During the ‘interval,’ men serve coffee (Rs 2 per cup), but in this poor man’s multiplex, they don’t accept the money we hand out; they guide our hands to the tray.
At Pradip, everyone knows what they are here for, and the means to satisfaction. They leave quietly, the shutters come down, and the usher closes the door on the traffic whizzing past the bridge over Tolly Nullah.
— Arindam Chatterjee and Ritujaay Ghosh