Single Screenings – It’s Always Sunny In Maratha Mandir

Wayne D’Mello watches One Night Stand at Mumbai’s Marathi Mandir. He discovers that more than Leone and her films, it’s her audiences who surprise you

As I hopped off the train at Mumbai Central and made the five-minute walk to Maratha Mandir, one of the city’s few remaining single screen cinema halls, I noticed a Manforce ad on an ST bus that zoomed right past me. This wasn’t the last of Sunny Leone I was going to see that day. For I had made this first trip to Maratha Mandir to watch the latest Sunny Leone movie, which after many postponements, had finally released.

Tickets were priced at a mere Rs 80, Rs 90 and Rs 110 for stall, dress circle and balcony seats respectively. As I curiously took several photos of the theatre and the promotional material there, I was approached by a group of 22-25 year olds, all of them male. One of them, Shahid, requested, “Boss DSLR pe apni photo le na please”. I obliged. Shahid, 22, has a part-time job. He went on to tell me that he frequents Maratha Mandir to watch all “good films”, only to be interrupted by his friend who yelled mockingly, “Yeh sirf Sunny Leone ke picture dekhne aata hain bhai”. Shahid then, without shame, admitted that he’d seen all of her previous movies. I’m talking about her Bollywood movies, of course. Shahid, ever cheerful, then joked, “GF leke nahin aaya kya?”

Salim and friends flaunt their tickets at Sunny Leone film's single screens
Twenty two-year-old Shahid (in black and white shirt) rarely misses a Sunny Leone film.

These weren’t the only bunch of excited boys around. About 95 per cent of the people there were men. I even noticed a few boys who very evidently much younger than me. I am 19, so there’s a big chance they were underage. (One Night Stand has been rated ‘A’ .)

I made my way inside and found my seat. I sat down and looked around. I could almost smell the testosterone in the air. There were men all around. Some had come in groups, some had come alone, some had even brought their girlfriends along. Orchestral Hindi film music played as everyone settled down. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the film or the audience. Well, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much of the film because (1) I’d watched Ragini MMS 2 as part of research for this film and (2) I’d watched the trailer of this film, multiple times.

As the lights finally dimmed and the national anthem had finished playing, One Night Stand began. What ensued was both comic and revelatory.

The film starts off in Phuket, Thailand. Urvil, a young events guy notices a mysterious woman who captures his attention. He sees her at a restaurant the next morning and bets Rs 5,000, boasting to his friends that he will pick her up. This woman (Sunny) calls herself Celina and sees through the lies he tells her in order to start a conversation. She and Urvil then decide to split the wager money. In return, she, Celina, plays along. Things catapult quickly from there and there are scenes of them on beaches, mumbling some mumbo-jumbo about the meaning of their names and about how the sky and sea never meet. But I shall get to the point. They have a one night stand, and in the morning, she’s gone.

Much to my surprise, audience reaction to the scene of them making love, was well, minimal. Also to my surprise was the fact that this scene was the only long-drawn explicit (by Indian standards) sex scene in the film with Sunny.

The film plods along in its mediocrity as Urvil can’t seem to get this girl out of his head, eventually to the point where he is constantly stalking and intimidating her.

At one point, a man seated not too far away from me, was so spectacularly bored that he took out his phone and started playing music. In the theatre. Not one person shushed him.

There was chatter all through the course of the film. However, this was, as I noticed later, only during scenes without Sunny in them. Not once did I hear people talking while Sunny was on-screen. It was like an unmentioned rule.

Sunny Leone poster at single screens

Another thing that surprised me (more than the fact that I saw no rodents) was the fact that there were no whistles. These men weren’t the sexist, comment-passing, eve-teasing type that I had prepared myself to be amongst. In fact the only comment I heard which had to do with her physical appearance was “Yeh bahut sundar hain yaar”. And this was in reference to a shot of her in which she was fully clothed. They were just there to be entertained. All they wanted was to watch a decent film while munching on their samosas or licking their ice cream and sipping on their sodas.

On my way out I overheard a group of friends, a group much like Shahid and his pals, discussing the film.

Boy 1: “Accha laga bey?”

Boy 2 : “Bhak!”

Much like any one night stand, the review was both, short and sweet.

Photo Credits: Wayne D’Mello

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