Spoilers Ahead: Love on a 16-inch screen

Published on Sep 17, 2022 02:17 AM IST

The one advantage of a long flight is the opportunity to catch up with films. Do you have any go-to movies you watch while travelling?

Channing Tatum’s latest release, Dog, is a much deeper film than it lets on
Channing Tatum’s latest release, Dog, is a much deeper film than it lets on
ByRajeev Masand

Two weeks ago on my flight back home after a week catching up with friends in Sydney, I was in the mood for something warm and fuzzy. Nothing too intense, definitely nothing cerebral. Lucky for me, the airline had a well-stocked in-flight programme to choose from. After scouring my options, I settled on a Channing Tatum movie titled, quite simply, Dog.

Look, I was only in need of the sort of simple, uncomplicated company that didn’t require much investment. The kind of thing one could dip in and out of while getting through a glass of wine followed by a three-course business class lunch. To that end, it’s unlikely you could do much better than the film I’d picked; a film too lazy to be titled anything even remotely smart or metaphoric; a film that does exactly what it says on the box.

Tom Cruise in Risky Business
Tom Cruise in Risky Business

Despite its predictable storyline about a scarred military man and the unlikely bond he forms with an angry service dog while taking a cross-country road trip together, Dog turned out to be deeper than the breezy watch I was seeking. Its central idea—that man and beast, both crippled by PTSD, were somehow able to heal each other—was, in fact, a fresh take on an overused template.

Risqué business

Which brings me to the point of this piece. For serious film buffs, in-flight entertainment is a serious affair. For some, it could be an opportunity to catch up on something they had previously missed. For others, it might present the perfect mood and setting to revisit an old favourite. Trapped in a seat for anything between four and 14 hours, some 35,000 feet in the sky, I’ve realised I don’t want to take a chance on anything that could potentially be a waste of time. It’s why I tend to re-watch tried and tested mood-uplifters. Here’s a pro-tip: most airlines will have at least one of these sure-shot gems—Love Actually, Notting Hill, The Holiday, The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Best way to put you in a good mood on a long flight.

Travelling to Melbourne to attend a film festival not long ago, I found myself seated beside Vaani Kapoor. Pleasantries exchanged and small talk done, we drew up the divider between our seats so we could get on with whatever we had planned. She dived straight into a script she’d brought along, I cued up Risky Business on my personal screen. It wasn’t until about 25 minutes into the film when Rebecca De Mornay’s hooker Lana shows up and gets it on with a twenty-one-year-old Tom Cruise in a very raunchy scene, that I figured this might be a mistake.

A still from Academy Award winner Parasite
A still from Academy Award winner Parasite

Alas, my innocent decision to re-watch one of my generation’s most popular and charming comedies might not have been the best idea. What if the actress sitting not two feet away turned towards my screen at this exact moment and happened to catch a glimpse of the carnal coupling currently underway? What if she had never watched Risky Business? What if she thought the perv beside her had sought out some sleazy soft porn for the flight? I quickly turned off the film, found something more appropriate, and when we landed a few hours later I made sure I shared the whole thing with Vaani, who couldn’t stop laughing. Of course, she had watched Risky Business.

Genius in miniature

There are other memories too. Of first watching the brilliant Korean film Parasite on a flight to Tokyo some years ago after missing it twice at film festivals, and after failing to find a Torrent file with accompanying English subtitles. That incident demonstrated that a great film inspires unmatched awe whether experienced on a 72-foot cinema screen or a 16-inch airline screen.

Malayalam film Premam
Malayalam film Premam

Another time, on this occasion seated in coach, I remember watching the entirety of the Telugu film Premam (remake of the far superior Malayalam film of the same name) through the gap in the seats in front of me, playing on the screen of the passenger seated ahead. The film was trashy but entertaining. I didn’t have headphones plugged in, yet it wasn’t hard to follow the story of the romantic misadventures of a young man (played by Naga Chaitanya) who thrice gets his heart broken before finding true love. For the life of me, I can’t remember why I didn’t just watch the film on my own screen instead of being at the mercy of the fellow in front who paused frequently to visit the loo.

Who says long flights have to be boring? The trick is to find the right film that can make up for the lousy meals and the baby who won’t stop crying in the row ahead.

Formerly a film journalist, Rajeev Masand currently heads a talent management agency in Mumbai

From HT Brunch, September 17, 2022

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