It was 7pm on a Saturday, and Sadagopan Thareja was feeling a bit blue. Perhaps it was the “Gusto Morbido” coffee his friend had brought him from Italy. It was dark. And it was making him very dark.
“Another week, another weekend, another boring night! Va’ Fa Napoli!” He howled.
The point in contention was Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Now I know what you might be thinking. KJO? Seriously bro? But you see, despite all of Sada’s liberal ideals and slim fit jeans, a part of him still craved for the blushing, idealistic world of green polo neck sweaters and shivering saris. He was, as they say, a little Chaiyya Chaiyya in the head. The only problem was, he was alone today, with no company whatsoever for the evening.
“Why can’t I get anyone to watch a movie with me dammit?”
The film was starting in 45 minutes and a decision had to be made. Should he flip the finger to the world and watch the movie all by himself? He took another sip. Oh uhm. This is sour. What if someone sees me? What if they ask why I’m here? Should I lie to them? That’s just lame. This coffee sucks. So does this world. That’s it! I’m going alone!
[At this point, I would like to mention that the words “Gusto Morbido” simply implied ‘smooth taste’ in Italian and not ‘morbid with gusto’, as Sada had mistakenly understood. The following events would have been very different had he made the efforts to Google it.]
Clickety-click! Jibbity-jab! and Sada had booked a single seat right in the center of the hall. He took a final sip. I’m a big boy. I can do it. I don’t need anyone with me. Come on bae! Lead the way, hombre!
This early enthusiasm was soon moistened by the questions at the ticket counter. Id number WTS4QD9 bhaiya, said Sada gingerly. Ek tickut hain? Haan. Akele jaa rahe hon? Hmm. Center main bethoge? Aap ticket do na. Ohh accha. Kya? Break-up song. Samaj gaya. Ticket please.
Buying popcorn was a tad easier. Salted ya caramel? Salted bhaiya. Mix le lo, accha hain. Nahi salted thik hain. Share kar lena, aapki dost ko bhi aacha lage ga. The girl standing behind Sada quickly signaled they were definitely NOT together. “Cutie Pie” began to play in the background, adding some unnecessary masala to his popcorn.
Munching away, grumbling away, Sada entered the hall, regretting his bold seat selection immediately. A single seat in the center was surely going to attract attention. Was he ready for this? He took a moment. If you’re going solo buddy, then do it yolo. Channelize Danny Denzongpa. 16th November! Sari forces tainat!
Uh, Excuse me. Sorry. Uh. Oops. Eh. Ek second. Excuse me. Madam.
Thank you. And he was in the seat! Wooh. He took a bunch of popcorn and shoved it in his mouth to stop the jitters. You’ve made it till here. Breathe.
The movie began. Aa ah ha han haan. The familiar KKHH tune always got him in the mood. He saw Ranbir, chilling in a bar. Now Sada was chilling in that bar. Ranbir was dancing with Anushka. Or was Sada dancing with Anushka? They were going upstairs. Hmm. And whoa, huh, kya, uff. Whispers from either side.
An agitated Sada looked to his right and saw two very pretty girls, probably best friends, watching the movie. He had a best friend too, but let’s not get into that. The slight snicker in their tone implied they knew he was alone. To his left was an elderly couple, where uncle seemed especially skeptical of the man sitting next to his wife. He exchanged a few curious looks. But by then, Sada had already left. He was in a jet. He was in Paris. He was in a bar. He was on a mountain. He was back in the jet. He was sad in the jet. Anushka was being a real bitch. And why was she was wearing funny kurtas just because she was from Lucknow? Oh sorry, mujhe unke fashion ka “lihaaz” rakhna chahiye. After all woh Urdu speaking city se jo hain. This movie was silly. Thank god Sada met Aishwarya. She knew what to do. She was cool. He was feeling much better by the interval.
Now typically, one looks forward to the interval as a gentle break from the visual chaos, a time to reflect on the hits and misses of the movie. But for Sada, this was a moment of reckoning. You see till the lights came up, both parties on either side believed he belonged to the other. This had helped soften the initial snickers and glares. But now, the lights were slowly rising. The screen had shut, the people were disengaged. Sada began to sense a strange vibe in the air. Sniff. He wasn’t in Vienna. He was in sweaty Juhhoo. Aishwarya had left him. Anushka had left him. He was standing in the gallows, a man alone, naked and defense less, forced to face the firing squad. Boom! Boom! Boom! The lights were up. He fumbled, then stumbled, then kept his head down and stared at his feet. Like a real man.
The girls looked intrigued at first but soon got distracted by a hot tattooed celebrity sitting a few rows ahead. Typical “Anushka” move, thought Sada. The uncle, who Sada saw later in the men’s washroom, decided it best to ignore his friendly advances. Just like that witch Anushka! On returning however, thankless uncle promptly switched places with his wife.
Uncle has probably never seen a movie alone, thought Sada. There’s no “dard” in his theatrical experience. It’s so superrrficial. And look at that celeb. Phooey! He could never do what I’m doing. Watching a movie by myself. We are comfortable being alone; Ranbir and I. Our pain is our privilege.
By the second half of the movie, Sada was feeling more at ease with his situation. The girls had moved on to contours of Ranbir’s abs, and uncle had taken the shayari of Aishwarya to heart. This had given Sada ample time to confront his deepest emotions. He was here. On his own. And he wasn’t ashamed to admit it. Par. Var. Digar. Bulleya! It was liberating. Even the slow walk out of the hall didn’t faze him. Hundreds of people discussing and debating, raving and ranting, all except him. Who would he speak too? He would surely stand out.
But now, Sada stood relaxed in the center, quietly mulling over his thoughts. These people don’t really care if I am alone or with someone. They are just walking, preoccupied, disappointed and completely oblivious to my quiet rebellion. This is a battle without a real enemy. No one cares who you watch a movie with. And neither should I.
A friend (maybe lover) had told him years ago to watch a movie by himself. It teaches you things. And now Sada knew it was true. It kills the ego, blunts your defenses and puts life in a firmly humbling perspective. More so, it gently reminds you that ‘watching a movie’ is a lot more than watching a big screen. It’s also the beautiful, awkward, kind of absurd social experience surrounding it.
Not too bad, thought the new and improved Sada 2.0 Thareja. I’ll do this again, as he plugged in his headphones and strolled back into the bubble of blissful anonymity.
About the author:
Yudhishthir’s father, much like Sadagopan’s appa probably felt that a complex first name helps build character and a strong affection for the English language. So, you can reach “Yudi” at www.shortsillystories.com or @yudiagrawal on Instagram.
About the illustrator:
Kunal Gagwani does not talk much, but is probably making an animated version of you in his head 5 minutes into meeting him. He’s not creepy. You reach him @kunalgagwani on Instagram.