Sunday, January 27, 2013

Enthusiastic fans or overzealous fanatics?

So, Vishwaroopam has got banned in Tamil Nadu, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Malaysia. Muslim outfits in the state have got the state government to ban the film stating that it would disrupt cultural harmony. Kamal Hassan has sought legal aid from the high court claiming cultural terrorism. Well, cultural harmony or terrorism, more on that later. But now that it’s playing at a theater that’s only two streets away, we got to check what all the hullabaloo is about, don’t we? So my husband and I decide to catch the 6 PM show. We reach there at 5:50 PM still expecting to get tickets and are shocked to see humungous crowd that has gathered. I never knew there were SO MANY Tamilians in Melbourne. Australian theaters, just like US theaters, do not have seat numbers printed on the tickets. Basically, it’s an early bird gets the worm. Needless to say, people have queued up to get the best seats. We walk into the theater, we have come this far, might as well try for tickets. An Australian mother and her daughter walk in before us, probably wanting to purchase tickets for a different movie. Suddenly a fist fight erupts between a couple of Indian Tamil guys. It soon evolves to blows and queue barricades are overturned. More people jump into the fracas. Horrified, I pull my husband away from the theater and we make our way home. An alley away I watch the Australian mother and daughter, who had run out before us, watch in confusion and fear. I am not sure what the reason for the fight was - Was it someone who cut in line? Did someone end up praising Rajnikanth or Vijay instead? Or was it something else? I am angry and disgusted at the behaviour of these testosterone pumped men who are no doubt educated and in all probability, work in IT somewhere. Yet the act is completely uncivilized. Looking at the daughter cower in fear, I feel this emotion rising in my chest that makes me want to defend India, that not all of us are that way, yet I do not speak a word and simply walk away.

The next day, we decide to try again for the 5:30 PM show. This time, learning from our mistake, we buy tickets online and reach the theater a half hour early. By 5:15 PM the length of the queue is just like the day before if not longer, but everything is peaceful. At 5:20 PM, the man standing in front of us yells at the facilitator who is standing a whole level above him, separated by about 30-40 stairs and asks him what the time is. This happens 2-3 times. Then he asks the guy why aren’t they letting people in. His wife joins in in the shouting. The facilitator pacifies them and leaves the scene. This is a family that includes a young girl, they have a bag of eatables and drinks that they have brought with them. In other words, seemingly an otherwise normal family. Well, we’re let in soon enough, the movie plays uneventfully. We make our way out of the theater thinking that this was a relatively peaceful day when suddenly outside the theater, two Indian men get into an altercation with an Aussie man and woman. One Indian man is coming to blows with the Aussie man while the Aussie woman is hitting another scrawny Indian man who doesn’t know whether to hit back or not. A third Indian man is trying to mediate, separating the individuals, trying to help. Traffic has come to a standstill with the Aussies car at the front, the front and back passenger doors thrown open. Behind me, an Indian man yells to his wife, “Suja! Come quickly, see there’s a fight!”. More people gather around. This time, it’s beyond disgusting. My husband watches for a moment while behind him, an Indian woman claps her hands excitedly. Again, we are unaware of what started it. While racism is a possibility that comes to mind, I also do believe that racists and such pigs only showcase their false bravado when they have company and the opposing party is alone or fewer in number, not when they’re met with an army of opponents, and the crowd gushing out of the theater certainly is an army of Indian Tamilians. We move away from the scene. I am so angry, I feel shivers for a few minutes.

These happenings bring to mind another such incident which had occurred in the US a few years back when Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna was being screened. The queue spilling out of the theater had passed by a restaurant with outdoor dining and when the gates of the theater had opened, a stampede had ensued. Someone threw stones, the people at the restaurant called 911 and the police swooped down like a pack of vultures. However, KANK was brought back the next weekend by public demand (Don’t even get me started!) and that was when the theater owner told us about this incident. Now I have been to a lot of movies, in the US, in India and a few movies in the three months that we have now been in Australia. I might not have interacted with every culture in the world, but I have seen some. Why is it that when faced with movies and in a crowd, we as a people tend to become so uncivilized and out of control? What is it with hero worship that people fall over each other to put the other down? Why do we have temples for actors? For believers, if God is the ultimate power, what makes some people put these actors on such a high pedestal that it transcends God? What is it that makes people misbehave and get away with their behaviour in the names of such actors? Something tells me no man would want his fans to resort to such tactics in his name. Is it just movies or something that's more deeply entrenched? What do you attribute this fanaticism to? 

I would love to hear your views!

26 comments:

  1. When you find the answer to our typical boorish behaviour, do let us know. Methinks it's in the genes now. After centuries of too many of us chasing things that were always too few.
    Shameful behaviour, really.

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    1. I think so too Rickie :( Looks like it has become an inborn trait now :( The only way that could probably be rectified at least for the next couple of generation until civilized mentality is something that gets taught, is effective law and order. Just like everything else again!

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  2. I too would have felt ashamed of the behavior of fellow- Indians. Such boorishness..! And to think that the man asked his wife to come and see the fight..! Pack animals, no?

    Dagny

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    1. We love to watch - accidents, fights, anything that gets a crowd to gather around! It's crazy! And so shameful.

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  3. Luckily I've never had any such experience in India or abroad. But Indians are not known to be polite. I can sort of see how a small altercation can blow out of proportion especially in a crowd situation. Very sad!

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    1. It scares me Rachna. We were having dinner after the movie and I was thinking what if someone starts hitting or starts an altercation with us for whatever misunderstanding - it's not like they're going to be in a mood to listen, it's going to be react first and think later.

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  4. That's so weird! I have never seen it happen in my 8 years in Sydney. Having said that, I don't watch Indian movies and when I go to the movies, have rarely seen Indians there. But even the Aussies at the cinemas I go to are very well behaved and not at all boganish. Most fights I hear about or know about are when people are drunk. Which is usually at night or early hours of the morning.

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    1. I stayed eight years in the US and except for that one time with Kabhi Alvida na Kehna didn't see it happen either. We used to go watch a lot of English movies but Indian crowds would be spread thin there. I don't know if it's crowds or long queues that set us off, but something defintely does! :(

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  5. Every time I come across instances of callousness and aggression by Indians - a regular occurrence - I feel so angry, and more so if it happens abroad because it casts a bad light upon all Indians.

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    1. Precisely. That was my first thought too. But then bad behaviour is bad behaviour - Indians or otherwise - in their homeland or otherwise :(

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  6. Why movies, Deepa! In any sort of queue, provided it is long enough, you find this behavior. One of the truly disgusting things by our people that shames you everywhere.

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    1. :( You're right Suresh. Crowds and queues - tick us off like crazy :( But yeah, having posted this, I am hearing about all kinds of personal experiences :(

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  7. It is really sad. I think we have lost our politeness, manners. Things just blow out of proportion. I feel angered too.

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    1. Every time I think that the overall tolerance of all humanity is at an all time low, someone decides to break the record and surprise me :(

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  8. More drama outside the movie theater than in the movie itself! LOL

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    1. Dekho na! Movie was alright, good not exceptional! And then this! And yet, in Tamil Nadu, discussions still go on and on and on!

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  9. Did all this really happen. Too hard to believe.

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    1. I wish I could say it didn't, unfortunately it did :(

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  10. Coming to blows during an argument is not only uncivilised, it shows a pitiful lack of verbal skills - whether it is Indians who do it or Aussies or anyone.

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    1. I agree KayEm. I have seen incidents where even Americans and Aussies have been involved in silly fracases but I think when it's Indians, it touches a chord :(

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  11. Weird is the word!! Sad that it happened in a foreign country!

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    1. Precisely my thought too. But then foreign or back home, I wish we as a species get more tolerant and try to resolve matters amicably than coming to blows. :(

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  12. dont you feel that over the past few years, intolerance has become the new normal for us... people are looking to enforce their views and mindsets with fists and angry words rather than a sensible conversation. Each incident just enforces the belief in the next fanatic that this boorish attitude is the right way to go.

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    1. Absolutely Roshan. Like I just commented to Jas above, every time I think that the overall tolerance of all humanity is at an all time low, someone decides to break the record and surprise me :( And it's not just Indians, it's people everywhere - whether we talk about school shootings or slashings anywhere.

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  13. I have never witnessed anything like that during my stay in Manchester. I saw a lot of Bollywood movies there.
    I think it is mob mentality. We tend to go out of control (especially Indians) when we are in a group. We think that being in a group automatically nullifies laws and manners.

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    1. True Amit. There's something about crowds and queues that trigger the violence gene in humans. And it's only going from bad to worse. Sigh.

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