I grew up on a hefty diet of Hindi movies and songs, thanks to my father.
Back in the day when a journey by car from Johor (Peninsular Malaysia's southern-most state) to Perlis (Peninsular Malaysia's northern-most state) took a good 12 hours, Hindi songs were the trusted traveling companion.
On those trips back to visit my grandparents, the family would be lulled by the likes of Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi - all from Abah's endless cassette collection.
So I guess it is only normal to grow up having a certain bias towards the colorful world of the Bollywood movies, their music and songs. In fact, my first ever travel outside of Malaysia was to India (specifically to Goa - in search of Dil Chahta Hai).
And in that first time in India, that once upon a time, we decided to watch Devdas in Mumbai.
None of us speak Hindi. But all of us had watched Devdas in Kuala Lumpur earlier (with subtitles, of course) and knew the story well. So, choosing Devdas to watch in Mumbai meant we would still be able to enjoy the movie even without English subtitles (just in case). And true enough, there weren't any.
Devdas is an epic movie based on the novella of the same name by the renowned Bengali writer, Saratchandra Chattopadhyay. The 2002 version was the third time the novella was made into a Hindi movie. This time around, it was directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
Personally, I didn't mind watching it again for the beautiful cinematography and grandiose setting (Sanjay Leela Bhansali's signature style) that evoked both the splendor and decadence of old-world Kolkata. And of course, for the compelling acting of Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit.
How did it go? It was an interesting and entertaining experience - all 3-hours of it! And I have 2 words to describe the whole episode - intermission, and interaction.
Bollywood movies are usually about 3 hours long, so they would normally have intermissions midway of the screening. It's basically a break (about 10 minutes or so) after the first half of the movie. At this point, the screening stops and everyone go out of the theater.
For the movie goers, the intermission is the opportune time for bio breaks - without having to miss any parts of the story (because that would suck).
From the movie-makers point of view, the intermission breaks up the mounting emotional hyperbole of a story - I may be wrong here, but I guess, an intermission is supposed to control us from getting too emotional? I guess that is needed once you get engrossed in Indian cinema.
And of course, intermissions mean more buying of popcorn and beverages!
Not sure if it is the norm (as we only watched 1 movie in India), but that particular experience was pretty interactive! While no one stood up, no dancing happened, and no one talked back to the movie - there were a lot of clapping and singing aloud to the songs.
I quite enjoyed it when folks started humming to "Silsila Ye Chahat Ka", clapped to the more fast beat songs and when we echoed "Maar Dala..." @ "I am killed..." to Chandramukhi's heartfelt profession of love towards Devdas.
This direct interaction with the story happened throughout the movie. I wondered if those folks in the cinema with us had actually watched the movie a few times before, seeing that they appeared to know the lyrics well!
I confess, watching Devdas in Mumbai left me with a lasting impression of the Indian cinema and its cinema goers. That was way back in 2002, and I wonder how the experience is right now, in the era of smart phones and Whats App?
I will be traveling to Chennai in a couple of weeks and I hope to catch Lingaa (if it is still showing) - am curious to see how folks react to the great Rajinikanth.
So, in your next India trip, do watch a local movie in the local cinema!
Safiza is a Travel Blogger, Common Reader, Book Hoarder, Art and Nescafe Tarik Lover.