A day at the movies, India style


With Tropical Cyclone Thane bearing down on the coast of Chennai our regularly scheduled touristing options were pretty much dead. Well, I suppose we could have gone with the plan of checking out the waterfront and the lighthouse, and we would have seen them really in action, but the waterlogging we would have to accumulate to do so was less than appealing. And so began our quest to visit the local cineplex.

Thanks to the advice of a good friend and Chennai native we learned that it is possible to have the hotel call over to the movie theater and arrange the ticket purchase – and even delivery – rather than dealing with the queues at the theater. Sounded great, but there was a problem. Turns out the concierge at the hotel wasn’t very good and the movie was mostly sold out and most theaters in town that day. He basically couldn’t find us seats, and every time he did they seemed to disappear as he called us to confirm.

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Back to square one. Thank goodness for the internet. The theaters we were looking at all had online booking systems. And there were a couple aggregator sites, too. This meant that we were actually able to find theatres showing the movie and which had seats available with a quick search rather than having the concierge calling them individually. We actually found a few showings with seats and went to book. Of course, it took us three different sites until we found one that actually worked throughout the process, but eventually we got that part squared away. For only Rs. 120 (~USD$2.40) each we were going to the movies. And I’m also now apparently a member of the INOX frequent guest program. Not sure about elite status yet, but I’ll see what I can figure out.

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We hopped in a tuk tuk/auto-rickshaw in the rain and hoped for the best as we made our way to the theater. I’ve heard plenty of stories about the theaters in India, with rather chaotic scenes inside. I was expecting a bit of the worst.

  • Yes, there were three levels of ticket takers, each checking the previous and issuing a new one, all for the same seat.
  • Yes, they checked our bags going in and confiscated the battery of my camera (but not my mobile) and my wife’s granola bar, issuing us a claim tag to recover them later.
  • Yes, there were people talking randomly throughout the movie, on mobiles or otherwise, and no one seemed to care.
  • Yes, they turned up the volume on the movie excessively loud to compensate for the above noted talking.
  • Yes, there was an intermission. Not timed for a break in the show but per the clock, leading to an awkward pause in the heat of an action scene.
  • Yes, there was an awesome collection of snacks available. Not just popcorn (which was also there) but samosas and roti and other "normal" food that wasn’t complete junk.

It was a bit crazy, no doubt, but also mostly quite civilized. Maybe because we went to an English-language film (almost certainly actually the reason) or maybe because it was a "fancy" theater. Awesome experience (and horrible movie) and one I’m completely happy I got but a bit less extreme than I was expecting.

Maybe next time we’ll step it up and try for the more authentic, "local" version and see what happens.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

6 Comments

  1. Inox is one of the better chains in India, so the general experience would remain the same, irrespective of the movie language.
    One thing, that is quite different there that I personally like, is the fact that you buy tickets for a particular seat and not a general admission ticket. You can generally buy tickets in advance quite easily.

    This saves standing in queues for hours (like I did for HP7, Dark Knight etc) to get good seats. Obviously, I am a movie-buff :). [I actually spent 90 minutes to get a good seat for the MI4 at an IMAX here :P]

  2. Come to Mumbai. One of the wildly popular hindi movies is still on the screens. we can take you to a local plex and you can have the ‘authentic’ experience 😉

  3. I’ve definitely got Mumbai on the list, AJ, and I’ve got a 10 year visa, too. Now I just need to find a decent mistake fare and I’ll be all over it. 😀

  4. I definitely liked having the assigned seats, Chirag. Especially for sold out shows that was quite nice. No fighting to get seats together or such. It did hamper our efforts to get seats initially (the concierge had 2 but in different rows and every time he called us back to confirm the inventory changed) but overall definitely a plus in the system.

  5. Sorry but I cannot help it, this is my Bollywood movie:

    Main characters:

    2 sisters Arya and Shia, Arya more beautiful than Shia; Shia is the older sister

    Rajiv: very good looking, one of the most popular boys in the high school and the captain of the school’s cricket team, they reached the state finals last year.

    Ganesh: typical nerd, glasses, skinny, spending all the time with the computer

    The Plot

    Arya falls in love with Rajiv. Shia likes him too and secretly is jealous with her. The parents do not approve this relationship. They say the boy is from a different caste and they are poor too (he is an orphan and lives with his aunt). They have arguments, she cries, she says she loves him.

    Mother:”Your older sister needs to get married first !”
    Arya: “Look at her, she won’t get married too soon !”
    Arya: “It was a joke sis !” (she is not only beautiful but funny too)
    Shia smiles forcefully, she did not taste the joke.

    Some boys are picking on Ganesh, they are chasing him, Rajiv intervenes him and saves him. This is the start of an unusual friendship. Ganesh mentors Rajiv at history and math lessons. Rajiv teaches Ganesh how to be a better cricket player, so he is no longer the last boy to be picked when captains choose their teams (he is now the last but one, no longer the last one).

    Arya gets pregnant, she and Rajiv elope and go to Bombay as he wants to become an actor. He gets a secondary role in a movie. They have money, he starts partying and having a good time with other girls, spends not too much time at home. Arya cries, makes scandal but in vain. She is too proud to return home.

    One night the tragedy strikes. Rajiv is drunk, drives carelessly a Mahindra Scorpio with a very high speed, a truck comes from the opposite direction, a holy cow all of the sudden appears in front, so Rajiv has to swerve brusquely and ends in a ditch gravely injured.
    He is in cast in a hospital. 6 months he has to stay in hospital and loses the role.

    After being discharged from hospital Rajiv tries in vain to get a new role but he does not get the big break as he had hoped for. No-one wants to employ him knowing his drinking habit. He starts to drink even more and he continues to party and start cheating Arya with other women. They run out of money and she is expecting with another baby.
    They have no other choice but to go back to her parents.
    They cry and receive her with open arms.
    Joyous dances.

    Meanwhile Shia had to get married with Ganesh. She didn’t want to as she did not like him at all (not to mention that after Rajiv’s departure secretly she was dating someone else). The parents find out and force her into a hastily arranged marriage with Ganesh. They tell her it was for their own best.
    What about Ganesh ? He didn’t mind at all as anyway he did not have a girlfriend, and not any chance to have one too soon so he saw this as an opportunity to hold for the first time a girl’s hand.

    After a while Shia and Ganesh move to the States as he got the green card.

    10 years forward: Ganesh and Shia come back with their 2 children to visit their parents. Joyous songs and dances.
    They look very well as Ganesh set up a successful software company that soon would have its IPO. He’d had eye surgery and now he’s got 20-20 vision. He’s been working out too. He is getting bald (the hairline is receding at an alarming rate) but hair surgery is going to solve this.

    The two families meet and the contrast is staggering. Shia looks much better in her clothes bought at Paris and Milan and younger than Arya who’s had had 5 or 6 children (too many to event count them). All her kids are barefoot. Shia’s 2 kids wear Nike shoes and Calvin Klein clothes.

    Rajiv as usual more drunk than sober.
    One night he overhears his first boy talking to his cousin: “I wish my father would be like yours !”
    Sad songs and dances.
    He goes out and starts crying bitterly, kneels down and swears to Shiva that he will change.

    Next day he goes with a spirits bottle to the former boss at the construction site, he pours the bottle in front of him on the ground and asks for the job back.
    “Sorry, no !”
    He leaves, shoulders down. The boss picks up the bottle, smells it and calls him back.
    Joyous songs and dances.

    Next week Rajiv gets the salary, and passes by the bar. Friends call him to have a drink with them, at the beginning he refuses but he is too weak and caves in. Arya sees him but does not dare say anything.
    Sad songs and dances.

    Rajiv goes to the bar, takes out the wallet and when he takes out the money he sees the photo of his wife and him when they were younger. He lifts the eyes and sees himself in the mirror above the bar. The difference is staggering. Tears come to the corner of his eyes. He puts the money back and leaves the bar. He goes home not before stopping at a store to buy candies and sodas for the kids.

    Arya sees him coming sober and she starts crying with joy.
    Joyous songs and dances.

    Fast forward 5 years
    Arya and Rajiv move to the States as well. Ganesh helps him set up a home building company and he does very well.
    Meanwhile Ganesh’s software company IPO did not go through and his company filed for bankruptcy as well due to intense competition from India.
    His mansion with swimming pool and tennis court had to be foreclosed.
    They had to move with Arya and Rajiv’s.

    Last scene:
    All of them are happy and sit at the table eating Indian food with the exception of Rajiv’s children that say they don’t like it and have burgers and milkshake from McDonald’s.

    In the background the announcer says on TV:
    “Bobby Jindal the governor of Lousiana is leading in the first count of the votes for the presidential elections”

    The End

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