‘Master’ Is Coming, But The Pandemic Isn’t Going, So What Do We Do?

Now that 100 per cent occupancy has been ensured in theatres, let’s just be safe and responsible and leave the rest to the movie gods.

When the announcement came that Tamil Nadu theatres would be open at 100 per cent capacity to accommodate Master and Eeswaran, my jaw dropped. Really? What kind of message is being sent out? That the pandemic is over? That, at least in Tamil Nadu, it’s no longer a concern? Or, that the Tamil Nadu government has done its bit for all these months and now it’s up to us to be grown-ups and choose wisely? That we can’t be kept prisoners forever, and when we choose to use public transport and when we say we’re fine going to beaches and temples, we should be okay choosing to see Master, as well?

One part of me — the part that’s just recovered from COVID — says we need to get on with life. I am super-OCD about masks and sanitisers, and when even I ended up with the damned disease, the first question that came up was: But what more could I have done? If all those precautions didn’t help, if all of that was a gamble anyway, maybe it’s not that much of a stretch going to a theatre and sitting in that stale air for three-something hours!

But then, I saw a Facebook post from a doctor.

And I am not sure anymore. Many people I know have been COVID-ed, and many of them (luckily) got away with minor discomforts like home quarantine. But there are others who suffered. Badly. And there’s also a new strain now. None of us has been vaccinated. And you only have to step out on the streets to know just how diligent people are about masks and sanitisers and other precautions.

So all things considered, it boils down to this: Is a movie worth it? And this is a question we have to answer for ourselves. (I’m guessing most of us, at least for Master, will say “yes”.) But this is more than about this one movie. This is about the message: that the onus of safety is now upon each one of us. Even with 50 per cent seating, I have heard about people who refuse to keep their masks on once they got into the theatre and sat in their seat, even after their neighbours complained and the theatre management came inside and asked them to mask up or leave. When the theatre management left, they just took off their masks again.

Now, with 100 per cent occupancy, we have to be doubly prepared for this situation. (And I have great faith in my countrymen. This WILL happen!) So don’t expect others to be considerate. Trust yourself. Try to go to theatres that are likely to enforce safety regulations. Try not to scream every time Vijay appears, because… airborne particles, et cetera. Try to be especially safe when it comes to older and younger people in the family. Even if you don’t bring them along, there’s a good chance you might be taking some unpleasant visitors back to them. Vaathi coming is fine. Virus coming isn’t.

My COVID symptoms, luckily, did not last very long, but in that brief time, it was pretty excruciating, especially a pain in the lower back. So here’s some unsolicited advice. You know no one can make up your mind about watching this movie. Just remember one thing, though. Master is fiction. The pandemic is very real. Follow every precaution, not just for you but also for the rest of us.

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"Baradwaj Rangan: Baradwaj Rangan is a National Award-winning film critic. He has authored Conversations with Mani Ratnam and Dispatches From the Wall Corner. His long-form story on Vikram was featured in The Caravan Book of Profiles, as one of their “twelve definitive profiles.” His short story, The Call, was published in The Indian Quarterly. He has written screenplays and works for theatre. He teaches a course on cinema at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.."
  
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