Hollywood in Bollywood

180 theater at Big Cinemas in Ghatkopar

Brian at the 180 cinema at R City Mall. The cinema features electric recliners, blankets, and a full dinner menu.

I expected to write this blog this weekend about how awesome the movie theaters in Mumbai are; I expected to write about my anticipation for seeing “The Dark Knight Rises.” It seems I expected quite a few things. But, once again, my expectations needed to be realigned with reality.

It turns out that I was purchasing my tickets for the Sunday showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” just as someone was terrorizing and murdering a theater full of movie-goers in Colorado. My prayers go out to the families forever affected by this horrible event. I first learned about it on Facebook Friday evening as Brian and I were sitting down to dinner. The tragedy was front-page news in the Times on Saturday with a two-page center spread on Sunday.

This weekend, some people may have rethought going to the movies. I hope they didn’t (although preliminary box office results indicate that they might have). These terrorizing events are meant to cause fear and panic. Giving in to that fear means that terror has won. I do not mean that people should not feel the fear, but courage comes from feeling the fear and doing it anyway. That is a kind of courage that I wish I had more of. Of course, it is easy to have courage in another country more than 8,000 miles away from these events.

So, let me tell you a little about going to the movies here in Mumbai. The theater where Brian and I went on Sunday is in a mall, like the theater in Colorado and like many theaters here. When the car pulled up to the front of the mall, the car was stopped by security. The security people opened the boot and the bonnet (the trunk and the hood) and ran a mirror under the car. When we entered the mall, we went through a metal detector, and my purse was searched. This level of security is standard operating procedure here (and in many parts of the world). When we entered the theater itself, my bag was searched again, and Brian was frisked. We don’t remember this happening when we went to the movies last time, so it might have been additional security for “The Dark Knight Rises.” In some locations, especially hotels, Brian would have been wanded, and I would have been taken into a curtained room where a security woman would have wanded me. That is the security reality in India. That reality exists because terrorist acts happened here, and they still might.

On 26 November 2008, multiple coordinated attacks took place throughout the city, including the Oberoi and Taj Mahal hotels, in the heart of SoBo (South Bombay). More than 260 people were killed. Brian and I happened to be in Mumbai last November on the third anniversary of the attacks, and we ate dinner at the Taj. It is a beautiful hotel. I highly recommend Souk restaurant at the top. On Saturday, I stopped by the Taj to freshen up before arriving at someone’s house. As security lowered the large concrete pillars that allowed our car admission to the driveway in front of the Taj, I thought about the reason for those pillars, but I have never once felt fear when entering the hotel.

Watching the movie yesterday was a bit surreal in the wake of the events in Colorado. During certain points in the movie, I thought about the violence in that Colorado theater, just as I had thought of the violence at Columbine when I saw “The Matrix” for the first time. It was only much later at dinner that I realized how much those external events had affected my perception of the movie and my mood. A movie is supposed to be an escape from reality. There is supposed to be an invisible barrier between the audience and the images on-screen (a barrier that Woody Allen famously mocked). When escape and reality intertwine the way they did this weekend, it can shatter the illusion the filmmakers are trying to create, in this case, hope. For all the violence in this movie, the main theme is actually hope. Hope for peace; hope for the future; hope that one day the world will no longer need Batman.

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