Fear and Loathing in Dark Chambers

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Me commenting on any aspect of cinema is like an amateur art-critic passing supercilious remarks on the techniques of Monet. Deriving inspiration from the like, I will go ahead with this anyway and entitle myself to be ludicrously biased towards my own opinions, completely disregarding the passion and the ideas that motivate many movie-makers to create and share something significant.

Movies demand a chunk of time out of my life. From the moment I enter the cinema hall, someone seems to declare in an inaudible voice, “I’m going to scoop two hours out of your life, and you are going to WATCH me do it.” This, for someone like me who has an almost pathologically obsessive concern about her life-span, is disconcerting. I get the feeling of having entered the dentist’s chamber whereas going for a movie only has the possibility of turning out like a bad date that you do not necessarily walk out on because, well, you have already placed an order for the food and you know damn well that the other person is not paying for it.

My own intransigence plays an integral role in my distrust for movies. I tend to shut out the narrative at the first moment of my disapproval of it. Also, if I fail to appreciate the movie, I feel like Alex bound to his chair before I run out of the theatre, or I quietly sob away and perish underneath the burden of the helplessness of realising how two hours of my life is being stolen right before my eyes. Needless to say, I dread either of the feelings. However, cinema does have an incredible appeal to people to suspend willingly their belief or their disbelief. Most of the time, I tend to let my guard down and allow the director to manipulate my mind by volition for the whole duration of the movie. Since I seldom look forward to reinforcing the sense of vacuity in my life by surviving a bad movie, I usually resort to trusting the director with my time. Cinema gives us a peek into the director’s mind, their thoughts, their (just for the sake of sounding fancy) weltanschauung. Ironically, one must risk some amount of their time acquainting oneself to the style of a director before saying, “No, thanks.” And thus persists the having-the-cake-and-eating-it problematic.

Paradoxically maintaining my tendency to digress, let me articulate another problem I face at the theatres. There is never a good time to pause and ponder over something! It is a pity to inhabit a three-dimensional space in linear time. The movie keeps running at its own pace, not caring two hoots about my thought-process. Unlike reading a book, movies at theatres do not allow me to manage my time at my own will, and I detest running along. Perhaps that is the reason why I prefer watching DVDs at home. Of course the experience at the theatres is just as majestic as the multiplex advertisements claim, but I would rather choose my moments, reflect and relive them over and over again if I so wish. I would rather that the timeline of the movie does not clash with that of my life, thus making my life feel more controlled than it already is, and I say this completely aware of the absurdity of my demand.

It is not always the movie that is at fault: I admit that sometimes I have the attention span of a squirrel. Now, that which is more unnerving to me is the moment the movie fails to retain my attention. Suddenly I become aware of how I am sitting in a dark room full of strangers, the number of steps I would have to tackle to make it to the glaring and alluring “Exit” signboard, or I wonder how amazing it would be to walk through the walls of the multiplex and pulling off a Nelson on them [Nelson Muntz from The Simpsons: the one who points and laughs at people]. The metatheatricality of my existence and the limitations of reality join hands to add to my prevailing misery.

Jokes apart, I believe that cinema has a power not shared by too many other media of expression. It has the power of being able to create something fantastic: it gives me a ticket to the other world, the one that I can only imagine but can never invite the next person to travel with me to. Cinema is the stuff that dreams are made on. Having said that, I must clarify that I do not wish to abnegate directors who intend to convey an important message through their films. One can simply not deny the impact of the visual and its efficacy in being readily received. So when Ritwik Ghatak says that he employs cinema as an instrument for propagating a message, I sincerely acknowledge that. In fact, I think that it is a brilliant method for reaching out to the mass, making people see and evoking feelings that they might otherwise not have seen or felt. But for me, and this is just a personal opinion, I look forward to the newer things one can do with the medium. In cinema, it is like taking a plunge into a painting and finding oneself living and breathing in another world, especially with the developments in 3D effects. The cathartic effect of cinema on my life is irrefutable. I would possibly end up identifying with the characters in the plot and living their life through the course of the movie. So if, by the end of it, I find myself drained out emotionally, I would prefer to have lived a screen-life that I could not have lived in reality and save my rage to yell at newspaper reports or to shake my fist at the clouds for things that go wrong in the real world.

– Kamalika Basu

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