You have the choice of auditoriums and multiple screens. The freedom to book the show online or over telephone. The ease of walking in at the last minute and still find the box office open. There is no rush, generally. Today, movie-going is easy. But there was a time when it was exciting.
The very thought of standing in the queue and not getting ticket added to the thrill of movie-watching. In my early childhood in Amritsar, I’d go to movies only during vacations. It was difficult to get permission from Nanaji; and he’d send us to only mythological films. We’d sit through ‘LuvKush’ and ‘Harishchandra-Taramati’ somehow. But we dreaded answering grandpa’s query: “What did you learn?”
In the early college days, we were allowed one movie a year. We three sisters (the fourth one was too young) made a smart plan — each would go to a separate movie with our mother and then share the story with the other two. This way we’d manage to “watch” three movies. Cinema houses used to run a “ladies’ show”. God! What a spectacle it made! So proud of having a full show to themselves once a week, women poured out in big armies — family, friends, neighbours all together. Larger the group, easier to scare others.
The strongest and the fiercest in the group would stand in the queue. Things would be quiet in the beginning — the lull before the storm. The moment the window opened, jostling, pushing, shouting, shrieking, and hair-pulling would start. Policemen on duty would have to extract themselves out of the mêlée. The woman with tickets would come out beaming, unmindful of the dupatta she lost in the scuffle.
Working in Amritsar in the early 1980s, I lived in the college hostel with the warden and a colleague. The warden, Miss Gautam, was a gentle, elderly woman, about to retire. A disciplinarian, she could take anyone to task; be it the doctor or the traffic cop. First, she would stun them with her chaste English and then give them a dressing down. But she was a child at heart, full of zest, and our trio was known for our escapades to movies and eating out.
Once my colleague stood in the movie-ticket queue; and the moment the window opened and all hell broke loose, Miss Gautam stepped in and yelled at the queue breakers. Oblivious of this, my colleague and I were busy talking to each other when suddenly a woman standing behind us said: “Guddi, teri jhaayi ladd payi (Hey girl, your mother has picked up a fight)!”
Those few moments of riotous laughter were worth a thousand movies that we were to watch.
The writer is a retired English teacher based in Patiala