Once upon a time, not so long ago, an afternoon at the cinema was a treat almost anyone could afford. For less than a hundred rupees two persons could see an afternoon flick and even eat a greasy burger or share a fizzy drink. Cinema was for the masses. Halls were huge and catered to large numbers. The number of movies produced were in accordance with the need of such large audiences. Box office was defined by the number of viewers as well as the number of times one saw the same film. Catching a first day first show was almost a ritual. Cinema was for everyone. It was one of the platform where the two Indias met on almost level field.
Was it too good to be true or did the Gods get jealous? Or was it once again the lure of what lay beyond seven seas or just market forces at play? Who knows. But came the day when the playing ground was redefined and the first multiplex appeared. A new invisible wall was surreptitiously erected. Suddenly what was once open to all, became inaccessible to some. A simple movie ticket was out of reach.
I have never been a movie goer and was quite unaware of the change. Slowly many of the cinema halls that dotted our area started closing for renovation, a renovation that rung the death knell of an era. Yesterday I decided to give a treat to Utpal, Kiran, Chanda and Radhey. The idea was to send them all to the movies, or rather should I say to the multiplex. Two adults and two children. I did not quite know how much money to give them. I handed them 1000 Rs thinking that they would also be able to buy themselves some lunch. I was horrified to learn that almost 800 rs were spent on the tickets alone and the remaining 200 barely got one cold drink and a bag of pop corn. You see in today's new environment only branded eateries can operate in the swank halls. Gone are the days when you could grab your greasy burger or patty. And of course UtpalKiran being above 5 were treated as adults! And multiplexes have only one rate, even if you are placed in the front row. A great leveller but sadly in the wrong side of the spectrum.
Movies, at least in big cities, are no more for the poor. What was once entertainment for the masses and provided a few hours of much needed escape to many, was now the preserve of a few. You could not more plan a Sunday afternoon family outing. It would cost you a month's wages. This is today's reality. The times are indeed changing...