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Urban Junkie

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Single at the movies

One of the abiding joys of modern living is the multiplex. In the days gone by (and not completely gone yet) movie-going was a creaky, crowded, smelly, sweaty experience which only the diehard film buffs were willing to brave. Now of course the tables are turned and the air conditioned, alluringly lit, popcorn-and-Pepsi-abundant movie theatres are the perfect refuge from the creaky, crowded, smelly, sweaty world out there.

I discovered multiplex haven a couple of years ago when I was temporarily yanked out of Bangalore and re-planted in Gurgaon (which has lately emerged as the undisputed winner in multiplex proliferation). For many blissful months now I have been on a steady diet of two-movies-a-weekend, sometimes on the same day. Balancing my Jumbo Popcorn and equally Jumbo Pepsi, and reclining almost 45 degrees in plush, well upholstered seats, I spend most weekends cocooned in a stupor of sensory gratification, emerging replete with my wellness quota for the week.

I have noticed however that my solo movie-going tends to evoke reactions of sympathy and concern among friends and acquaintances. I am deeply puzzled by this, but I suspect that being single at the movies is regarded as a cry for help of the highest order – a shout to the world that you are alone and friendless, with not a soul who is willing even to accompany you to the movies. It also seems to induce faint embarrassment, even guilt, among those who regard themselves as close friends (“You went alone? Why didn’t you just call me? I’ve seen it before but for you I would have come along again…”)

So deeply entrenched is the apparent indignity of solo movie going that nothing you say can convince them that you actually want it that way. But I like watching movies alone, you say in response to commiserating pats on the back and ‘chin-ups’. “Poor thing”, you hear them whisper as they turn away. “But at least she’s putting a brave face on it”.

I find this not just annoying in the extreme but also incomprehensible. The way I see it, the best thing about a multiplex is that you can dive into it alone with equanimity. It is true that I would not have ventured into old-world theatres on my own … but for some reason a multiplex induces a feeling of heightened well-being and independence, obviating the need for company.

Besides, I take movie-going quite seriously and am picky about my companions. At the very least, I look for an appreciation of the following movie-going principles – which I have found sadly lacking in a surprising number of would-be companions.

  1. The objective of going for a movie is to watch the movie. Social engagement is a peripheral benefit and cannot come in the way of the primary objective. Therefore mid-movie conversation is entirely unwelcome. I cannot stress this enough.
  2. We are not in a competition to guess what is going to happen next; nor are we there to beat the hero / heroine to a particular dialogue. The idea (unthinkable as it may be) is to watch passively as the plot unfolds.
  3. Before commenting negatively on the movie or lapsing into hoots of derisive laughter it is advisable to check companion’s reaction to movie. If companion seems engrossed and appreciative, keep opinion to self.
  4. Food and drink needs to be purchased before the movie or during the interval. Under no circumstances whisper ‘do you want a chicken hotdog’ while the protagonist battles for his life.
  5. Keep loo breaks to a minimum. Especially if they entail climbing over companion’s knees and spilling her popcorn.

Of late I have been carrying a printout of these simple principles along with me to a movie, to keep would-be sympathizers at bay. Usually I find people disappearing quite hastily after reading them, which in my view only points to the extent of non-compliance with basic movie etiquette.

Movie-going for most people, I suspect, is a social experience. For me it is clearly a personal one. And so goes my pursuit of single-dom at multiplexes … with half an eye out for the perfect movie companion.


  • well!!

    i would definately never fit as a movie partner for you... i strongly believe that movie watching is an social experience-:)

    do you have any such 'rules' driving eating out esp farewell to ex boss!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:11 AM, August 22, 2005  

  • better to invest in a DVD that works...and a good home theatre system...that way u dont have to go thru the sweaty smelly and crowded parking experience at multiplexes.

    so quit moaning !!

    By Anonymous sandeep, at 10:44 PM, August 25, 2005  

  • The question whether women go to restaurants/cinemas alone was asked recently in a forum and (almost) a consensus was reached that in India this doesn't happen. How wrong!

    By Blogger Bala (Karthik), at 4:13 AM, August 26, 2005  

  • LOL :D

    The horror!! ;)

    I like concept of solo movie watching, although for some vague reason I would probably not do it.

    The things you do for sosaity's sake :P


    By Blogger Karthik, at 12:08 PM, August 31, 2005  

  • Perfectly agree!

    My first movie alone was De Niro starrer Hide-and-Seek, and boy, was it an experience!

    Of course, I couln't resist humming "Charlie Charlie..." on the way downstairs, coupled with making a whodunnit face when someone looked :)

    By Blogger Rahul, at 5:31 AM, November 14, 2005  

  • I hardly go for movies as its a wasteful experince...and the least exciting..
    However on going alone, well, like anything else, one could go alone and be completely comfortable. I completely agree with you on that

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:32 AM, December 01, 2005  

  • Adding to the above, I peronsally would have opted for Galaxy, Lido, Plaza...instead of the multiplexes....what do ya say?

    - RajeevV

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:34 AM, December 01, 2005  

  • You are quite right about solo-ing at the movies... Indeed, one elicits the same reaction if he/she would want to go to a pub alone... There are times when I would love no conversation, lots of good music (the Pecos variety) and a couple of drinks... Invariably I encounter a few of my acquintances who shower me with pity, offer to spend some time with me and proceed into mind-numbing small talk ! Bukowski must have been talking about such folks when he said: "They were a sad bunch. Reminded me why I started drinking alone".

    Enjoy the movies.
    ~ Wolf

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:57 AM, January 13, 2006  

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