HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN! | 10 November, 2020

I woke up this morning with a sense of anticipation mixed with trepidation and excitement. After all, it was the first time since March 21 that I had been invited! I had been craving for this for almost eight months now and just the fact that an invitation had been extended to me was enough to make me feel elated. But if I was also fearful, it was because I didn’t know what I would feel at the end of it all.

Anyway, I kept my fear in my sub-conscious mind and tried to make the most of the happiness I was experiencing before I left home to honour the invitation. After all, wasn’t this what I had been waiting for all these almost eight months of the pandemic lockdown? Why then was I so sceptical about the outcome? Why couldn’t I just live in the moment and not think of the end result? Easier said than done.

It was probably the thought that I’d be finally getting to do what I love doing — after a gap of more than 230 days — that I overslept. Instead of the usual 7 a.m. or 7.30 a.m., I woke up at 9.15 a.m. this morning. Unlike the dull and depressing feeling I’ve been waking up with every morning during the pandemic, I jumped out of bed with a broad smile this morning. After all, today was THE DAY! I lost no time in getting ready. Instead of shorts, I got into a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. I picked up my phone, my air pods, my face mask and got into my car.

As I was driving to my destination, I was once again filled with anticipation. How would it be? What would I tell my hosts? Damn it! I had begun to mix my joy with a sense of nervousness. I played my favourite music in the car. As always, the Bollywood songs transported me to a world without worries. There’s something magical about listening to Hindi film songs in your car at the maximum volume. They take you into a world that knows no coronavirus, no pandemic, no lockdown. If anyone had any doubt about whether Bollywood will be able to bounce back — after all the negativity being spread about it after the untimely demise of Sushant Singh Rajput — all he/she needs to do is to listen to Bollywood songs and feel the magic. No further proof would be required to convince oneself that Bollywood is in our blood, and the adrenaline rush we experience on listening to film music is inexplicable. And if Bollywood songs can have this impact, imagine the effect of the entire film.

Anyway, I reached my destination in less than half an hour. I had started late from home and hence I was late by almost 20 minutes but my hosts were okay about it. Once I reached there, I realised that they were also running late. Pleasantries exchanged, I was prepared to get started. I was led into a room with a television monitor. My heart was now pounding louder than the background score provided by more than a thousand musicians. My excitement was, thankfully, concealed behind my mask which was covering more than half my face. Since I wear spectacles, some part of the face is also hidden by the frame.

“Tea? Coffee? Something to eat? What will you have?”

“Nothing, actually, nothing,” I replied to their polite question. I was dying to tell them to give me what I had come there for. They understood it without me spelling it out in so many words. “Sure, you won’t want anything?” In reply to my nod to say that I truly, genuinely, honestly did not want anything to eat or drink, the hosts said, “In any case, we’ll send you some coffee, Sir, and some biscuits to munch.” Alright, I resignedly said. After which a gentleman started the film. Thank God, I was watching it alone. If there was anybody else in the room, he would’ve seen that I was trembling with excitement like an autumn leaf. I just couldn’t contain my feeling of elation at watching a new film before its release — that too, without a screener link being mailed to me, as had become the norm during the lockdown.

Yes, yes, yes, I had been invited for a film show. It was the first ever invitation in the last almost eight months. Can you imagine my excitement? I was going mad. This was the first time since March 21 that I was going to watch a film outside the confines of my home. It transported me to the pre-COVID era when watching films was what I did day in and day out. Seconds before the film started, I was not bothered about how I would like the film — and whether I would like it or not. All that mattered at that moment was that I was going to watch a film which was NOT on a streaming platform. No, I don’t have anything against OTT platforms. It’s just that I love the cinema hall a thousand times more than I do streaming platforms. And although I was not in a cinema hall but instead, inside an edit suite (picture for representational purpose only), the fact that I was NOT watching a film on any streaming platform was enough for me to compare this with the pre-COVID era. In the good old days also, I’ve seen countless films in the edit suite and hence I don’t consider that as being any different from watching a film in a cinema hall or a preview theatre.

If you are wondering why I am not naming the film, let me explain that I am sworn to secrecy. My hosts asked me to refrain from posting my review or thoughts about the film and even about the fact that I had seen their film, and so I can’t betray their faith in me. ‘Sir, please don’t mention your review or even the fact that you’ve seen the film,” they had requested before showing me the film. And so, I am tight-lipped. But without naming the film or the producers or the director or the cast members of the film, I can say that I enjoyed every moment of the two-hour-fifteen-minutes film. I laughed out loud — not once, not twice, not three or four times but repeatedly. I had a lump in my throat on a couple of occasions. I experienced the same high on watching the film, which I used to experience on watching commercially successful films before March 2020. In short, I enjoyed myself thoroughly. And no, my positivity had nothing to do with the fact that I was so looking forward to watching this or, for that matter, any film outside my home. I loved the film because it was a wonderful film. And I’m sure, the audience is also going to love the film.

That cinemas have reopened is, as you all know, only half the good story. The other half is that the audience has to return to the cinemas. After watching this film today, let me assure you all that the public will indeed come back to the cinemas. For, there are lakhs and lakhs of people like me, who are waiting to watch films in the dark of the cinema halls. A good commercial film is what their hearts yearn for. Well, that good, lovely commercial entertainer is just round the corner. Yes, like Happy Diwali, happy times too are here again!