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Travails of an Indian movie goer

August 31, 2009

This isn’t about the whispering couples, stamping late-comers, cell-phone talkers, screaming children, noisy revellers or the loud commentators that Indian cinema halls boast of. In fact there has been a drop in this type of behaviour, at least in Mumbai and Pune, where we see our movies.

This post isn’t about intrusive security checking either, because the kind of security checking that happens at most malls and cinema halls is cursory and casual. I guess the security people don’t really check for bombs, guns or terrorists; they make a show of doing their job. Most of the time employees and construction workers at these malls go through with sacks of material without being checked. I have seen this myself, at least two malls. I’ve written about this earlier.

This post is about the intrusive checking for bits of food at cinema halls in the belief that candy in the pocket prevents mover goers from buying popcorn and coke. But what happened to the days of yore when customers were reminded more gently, by bold signs telling them that outside food is not allowed? What happened to the days when customers were reprimanded only if caught eating outside food?

Checking for food can be done quite rudely, with disregard for civility, at least in some cinema halls in Mumbai. Dirty fingers (which have gone into umpteen bags before yours) plunge into every nook and cranny of your bag, open every compartment in your purse and scrounge around.  Then to add insult to injury, the owner of the fingers asks rudely, as if you are some sort of serial food offender:

Chewing hum hai?
Chocolate hai?
Cigarette hai?
Lighter hai?
Camera hai?

Even if the security people assume that I can steal the entire movie with my tiny little digital camera, I don’t think they can assume that I have hidden some candy underneath my clothes. Why, even the clean white fresh smelling kerchief has already been mauled by grubby fingers! The whole world knows that salwar kameezs’ don’t have pockets. Will cinema halls now bring human x-ray machines to look for a piece of candy or gum?

I personally haven’t eaten chewing gum for the last 25 years, but everytime I enter PVR Mulund I am asked whether I have it. That too after a thorough checking of my bag! My bad luck I guess. I have seen hundreds of movies in Mumbai but not once has any food item been found in my bag. Once the security lady found cough drops, which she took! Apparently, coughing is allowed, but not the medicine to prevent it! At one time an empty biscuit wrapper was confiscated from my bag! I asked, what’s wrong with an empty biscuit wrapper? The woman told me rudely that it was their job to take it!

Surprisingly, men’s wallets are not checked and nor are they asked if they carry candy or gum.

Cinema halls vary in their aggressiveness, and my worst experiences have been at PVR Mulund. At PVR Phoenix they are more polite, and at R-Adlabs, quite casual. A recent visit to Sterling was quite pleasant. They have a friendly, smiling staff. At PVR Mulund I have complained, not once but several times, but each time the supervisor has defended the security woman. She even told me that customers have to be asked whether they are carrying candy, even after the checking of their bag, so that awareness is increased!! Highly uncivilized way of spreading awareness I must say! As if people do not know that outside food is not allowed in cinema halls! In fact the last time I complained at PVR the supervisor didn’t even bother to give me her attention. She kept talking to a colleague at the same time. This colleague too wasn’t bothered that the supervisor was talking to a customer, and insisted on interrupting us. Anyway, I was fed up and this time  complained straight to Ajay Bijli, the owner of PVR cinemas and thankfully this time I got a proper response. Rahul Singh, Sr. Vice President Operations, replied to me and apologised:

Dear Ms.Kulkarni ,

First of all I would like to apologize for your experience at PVR Mulund
and thank you for writing to us and bringing it to our notice. Let me
assure the same has been taken up strongly in right earnest with
concerned departments . We at PVR value your patronage and our endeavour
is always to bring to you a complete positive movie experience.
We look forward to your continued patronage and experience the change .
I have also marked the mail to my Area Manager should you need any
assistance at PVR.
Warm regards,

Rahul Singh

Later a girl from PVR also called up. Words, which I hope they will honour. However I still decided to blog about it, because I know that it is not only at PVR Mulund where this happens. It happens at other cinemas too, in varying degrees. I am not sure why people tolerate it. I think we have all got so used to the security checking at malls that we go along with intrusive food checking too, a little unsure as to what we are being searched for. I feel more people should complain, otherwise cinema halls will get worse.

Increased security at airports and malls makes us uncomfortable but we tell ourselves that it’s necessary for our own safety. But how do we convince ourselves that the the intense frisking for food before we enter cinema halls is for our own good? And does it really help the cinema owner? Does it make business sense to make customers uncomfortable? I have seen a piece of chocolate forcibly removed from a child’s hand. How is this supposed to encourage spending at the stalls? Surely this will create a negative impression in the mind of the child and the parents? One goes to a movie theatre to have a good time doesn’t one?

I believe that all of us need to demand to be treated with respect. And only those who break rules should be reprimanded. A random check during the movie can easily reveal who is eating what. It’s no big deal.

(Photo is by me and it’s copyrighted)

Related Reading: Nirmal Lifestyle at Mulund Mumbai – Review

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62 Comments leave one →
  1. Meghna permalink
    August 31, 2009 3:38 pm

    Some of these security people are damn rude! But we are helpless, and try to laugh it off. After all, we want to have a good time like you said, and complaining tends to spoil one’s mood.

  2. wishtobeanon permalink
    August 31, 2009 5:21 pm

    I didn’t know that there was security checking at malls and theaters too. I guess the intense checking for food is due to a general lack of trust, efficiency and time-management. You need to complain, Nita, only then will people change.

  3. August 31, 2009 5:32 pm

    Nicely put. I totally agree with your opinon on food check. The basic problem with our people is that they dont respect other person’s freedom. They dont know being rude means lack of manners. I dont know when our people will understand a friendly behaviour would ensure peace to everyone.

  4. August 31, 2009 6:46 pm

    I haven’t seen this happening in Chennai..or at least at Satyam where I watch movies…

  5. August 31, 2009 7:24 pm

    Whoa! Didn’t know the food search was so intrusive and insulting. For for-profit private corporation, public has to take stand only a day and they will understand. Kudos for raising the voice.

    • Kartar Singh permalink
      April 27, 2010 12:12 pm

      Under which law can they(PVR) stop us from bringing food.
      they conceal you in a building for 3 hours and
      then force u to buy eatables at exorbitant prices. this is illegal.
      There should be some provision to lodge FIR against them.

  6. August 31, 2009 7:33 pm

    the security at all these malls and cinema halls is just useless. what do they see in ladies hand purse i dont know
    many a times i have walked in front of them without them even noticing me
    and outside food is not allowed in movie halls but during interval they come and sell popcorn, cold drinks like some road vendors
    how come this is permited

  7. August 31, 2009 7:37 pm

    You say this doesn’t happen to men?! I’ve lost more cigarette lighters to PVR Phoenix security than to airport security. But I agree PVR Phoenix security staff is comparatively cordial. From my experiance of watching 2 movies a week for last 3 years in bombay, Inox Nariman Point has the worst possible staff & policies while Globus Bandra has the best!

    The best was at Inox NP when the security lady asked me to leave my DSLR’s batteries with her, saying this is a security policy. I refused and she called the supervisor who also refused to let me take them inside. I told him the camera hardly has memory to take 10 mins of video so in a 3 hr movie, it shouldn’t be a problem. He stated that the problem is not camera but that batteries are banned as they can be used as explosives! I tried to point out that my camera battery has lower power than a normal smartphone battery and given the number of smartphones in any hall, my camera battery should be the last of their worries. Finally, he called in the manager who took half a minute to hear them out, took a look at my camera and let me go in with the battery :D

    The best part is, the lower in organisational heirarchy the security person is, harsher is their behaviour. Being a Delhiite originally, I find this completely contrary to expectations :)

  8. vishee permalink
    August 31, 2009 8:41 pm

    uhm, the security staff making a thorough check for bombs is certainly acceptable, but ah! for food items, and being rude that too, is so annoying !

  9. vasudev permalink
    August 31, 2009 9:28 pm

    i always thought and believed this was due to ‘rodent trouble’?

  10. September 1, 2009 4:19 am

    Here in Canadian movies, it is assumed that movie-goers are not terrorists, being too enamored of the form of entertainment to even consider acts of sabotage. Keep them drugged into compliance with entertainment! However, the theaters offer libations and munchies at exorbitant prices, and reallly dislike the idea of attendees bringing their own food-stuffs. No one really checks the ladies’ capacious purses, though, even if they could be smuggling in contraband treats for family and friends.

    I make it a point to never buy edibles from movie houses. Call me cheap; call me frugal! I dislike coerced buying of anything and refuse to follow sheepishly with the masses. Big buckets of popcorn, Canadian movie fare of choice cost $5. Imagine missing bits of important dialogue in a movie because of interference from crunching popcorn, rustlings by neighbours digging into their rapidly depleting buckets. Pshaw! I go to the movies to see the movie, to a cafe or restaurant to refresh myself with food and drink. See no need to mix the two! Now, if one wanted to bring in a canteen of water to assuage parched lips, being interfered with by officious theatre ushers would really get my dander up. G

    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
      September 1, 2009 6:17 am

      suburbanlife,

      Your comment is a delight, though I would have loved to read it in more colourful language :-) . I thought such singular besottedness with moving pictures was unique to India (and, well, Pakistan). I wish we would take a cue from Canada in the matter of “security”. As it is we do have an excess of multiplexes — architectural blots on the landscape and planning-wise, a crime against the city with the traffic problems they create (along with the malls of which they are often part). I say let any number of people go in without checking what they are carrying, and let the laws of probability take care of the horrors perpetrated on the city as well as the intrusion into the visitors’ privacy that Nita describes.

      About theatres ensuring sales of their own overpriced items of food and drink, that happens here too, especially in the upmarket, “happening” multiplexes. The best thing is to boycott them, strangle their business, starve them to death.

      //I go to the movies to see the movie, to a cafe or restaurant to refresh myself with food and drink.//

      I would like to extend the scope of that statement considerably. When I travel on a long-distance bus my purpose is to get from A to B, not to have my eardrums ruptured by the soundtrack of the cheap filmi trash gratuitously rammed down my throat from the on-board video. When I go shopping at a large store, and am given an unwanted gift for making purchases worth a minimum of so much, I would much rather have a discount equivalent to the price of the gift instead of loading me with garish junk. If I buy a shirt on which the brand name is prominently displayed on the pocket, I must not only get an initial discount on the price but also a monthly fee for agreeing to advertise the brand on my person.

      All such forms of market aggression must be resisted. If that means adopting extreme measures, “so be it”. After all, any protest is usually against things sanctioned by the law, or at least not prohibited by the law.

      • September 2, 2009 12:17 am

        The thing that gets me about modern Canadian women is their fondness for carrying purses emblazoned with designers’ logos. And they pay big bucks for the privilege. Utter hog-wash! I’m with you Vivek – let them pay me to prance around with those purses! Now that you mention it, there are so many things sellers do to get my dander up… G

    • September 1, 2009 2:00 pm

      Suburbanlife:

      “Keep them drugged into compliance with entertainment!”

      They are trying. Since they are providing the circus, all they ask is that you let them supply the bread too. ;-)

      • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
        September 1, 2009 2:44 pm

        Good one, Shefaly!

        • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
          September 1, 2009 3:26 pm

          Shefaly,

          On further thought, in the original panem et circenses of Juvenal, the panem (in that context “wheat”, not “bread”) was supplied free. The multiplexes are far from being so altruistic, even for an insidiously pro bono cause such as papering over the transition from Republic to Empire.

      • September 2, 2009 12:20 am

        Shefaly – trust you to come up with the correct riposte! Only these days wheat has been nudged out of prominence by the ubiquitous corn – in the candies, in the soft drinks, in the chokingly stale but well greased popcorn. G

  11. September 1, 2009 9:01 am

    First of all,let us agree that the security staff at the gates is not professional.They are untrained youth from small towns who have been picked up security jobs.There is a minimum requirement by the police in the area for door security,hence this formality of having just about anyone at the gate.
    What I understand,the multiplexes make a very heavy margin from the candy bar .I was told that 65% of the total profit (x) comes from the candy bar.In such case the multiplex ,perhaps is justified in securing their business rather than worry about bombs and lighters…May be.
    Since we all have been living in fear-yes we do- we accept the frisking in “our own interest” without really going in to the merits.

  12. September 1, 2009 9:32 am

    Once they took my camera which costs about 15,000 Rs. and when I asked if there was any guarantee that it would be safe, they boldly said “NO.” I fought and argued with them but it was like talking to a Nazi brick wall.
    I was like why don’t you just take my batteries (which easily cost about 3 grand but still) but they refused. In the end, I wasted my ticket and never ended up going to the movie. It was a horrible experience (coincidentally at PVR Mulund itself) and I learned my lesson never to take my camera if I’m watching a movie, and if i am accidentally carrying it, to leave it in someone’s car, or something.

  13. September 1, 2009 10:51 am

    Good that you picked up this matter with the authorities. Most of us just go on complaining to each other but don’t bother to talk to the right people. I hope the behaviour at PVR mulund would be much better now on! :)

  14. September 1, 2009 12:48 pm

    Funny thing is Men get exempted everywhere. In my office building, I walk in with a Sack on my back and get a smile and Good Morning (most of Men get greeted like this) but the Security Woman checks every small purse and bag thoroughly before letting a girl in :D
    I wonder what girls carry in their purses. :D :P

  15. September 1, 2009 2:05 pm

    Nita:

    Amid all this is a flawed business model – that of film distribution, where cinema halls are at the end of a long and complicated value chain – and a larger philosophical question of bread-and-circus that Gabrielle raises above.

    That would be an interesting, if somewhat philosophical, and potentially comment-igniting post, I think :-)

  16. September 1, 2009 2:26 pm

    Seriously do they ask such questions:

    Chewing hum hai?
    Chocolate hai?
    Cigarette hai?
    Lighter hai?
    Camera hai?

    I have been to many multiplexex in Navi Mumbai and in Ahmedbad but I was never asked the questions about food or gum ?? Ofcourse frisking is in existence but such questions are bizarre. I guess they only ask it to the girls with huge purses .. But my wife caries one and she never compained about it ..

    Next time, I will observe this thing .. Ohhh, I m going to multiplex today only to watch kaminey !!

  17. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 1, 2009 2:57 pm

    Soham,

    If I recall correctly, you live in Ahmedabad, right? Now I have never been to a multiplex here (or anywhere for that matter) except by special invitation for unique screenings of the kind of films which are not aimed at the box office. Therefore, I guess, I have been spared the humiliation of being frisked.

    But even otherwise, I should imagine the very anticipation of being pleasurably drugged must deaden the instinct to complain. Besides, what good Ahmedabadi multiplex management would risk losing clientele by anything more than the barest minimal checking. You must take into account the gross excess of supply over demand, for a product that lies “at the end of a long and complicated value chain.”

  18. September 1, 2009 3:34 pm

    Meghna, still I think one must make one’s point, in a pleasant manner without spoiling one’s mood.

    wishtobeanon, oh, this checking is all pervasive in India but I suspect that the food checking happens strictly only in a few cinema halls in Mumbai. I am not sure about other places. Whatever it is, it is quite humilating and I agree one has to protest.

    Bharathi, manners? Now those people don’t know the meaning of the word.

    Vishesh, I think Chennai is lucky.

    Ashish, thanks. It’s really bad in some theatres in mumbai!

    anju, they want you to buy their exhorbitantly priced food.

    raven, I wish there were more people like you!! These movie hall owners are so stupid. They don’t understand that movie stealing happens in smaller places. And if they are telling you that the batteries can be used for explosives I am sure they are lying. Because they should confiscate mobile phones too.

    vishee, and annoying is a mild word!!

    vasudev, that’s their intention. Not to mention the real reason for the checking!!

    suburban, like Vivek said, your comment was indeed a nice read. :) And I like the assumption by canadian movie hall owners that movie goers are not terrorists. Here they assume that you are (unless proven otherwise) and they also assume you are an uncontrolled and greedy person who is constantly munching on gum and candy, and see a movie with the sole intention of stealing the entire three hours and selling it on the black market.

    BKChowla, true what you say, the movie hall owners can do what they like. But they will have to pay the price. There is competition today. I have stopped buying food stuff from the food stalls there because of the treatment. I used to often pick up a coke or something but now I don’t. I am sure all customers try and deal with it in some way or the other and the owner suffers.

    purpler, that is indeed not a very surprising thing to have happened at PVR mulund. At Phoenix they take the batteries only. I would advise you to stop going to PVR Mulund.

    Sakhi, I hope so too.

    Sudarshan, maybe women take their jobs too seriously!! :)

    Shefaly, you have in fact given me an idea for an article!! And I going to submit this idea, even though it will be only next month.

    Soham, I am not surprised that they don’t ask this in Ahmedabad as it is a small place. They never ask men questions about food anyway. If even your wife hasn’t been asked, in Navi Mumbai, well it looks like it is not following the Mumbai route. You should try the PVRs in Mumbai. But as you said the questions are bizarre. In fact i think those people should be in the mental asylum. I’m serious.

    • September 2, 2009 9:51 am

      @Nita, @Vivek:

      yesterday went to Fame Cinemas in Navi Mumbai .. I told my wife to let me know if they ask any question about the food ..

      Frsking thing did happen and neither me nor my wife was asked any question about outside food .. for thatmatter, We both had chewing gums in our pockets ..

      But as Nita said, navi mumbai is still not following mumbai route .. Good fo us ..

      Will hv to try and see PVRs in mumbai now ..

      • September 2, 2009 10:10 am

        And looks like we should try to see a movie at Navi Mumbai! :)

  19. rags permalink
    September 1, 2009 6:33 pm

    I’m from Chennai too and have not been frisked at the multiplexes (Satyam, mayajaal etc). I usually carry a very small purse, maybe that might have been a factor..

  20. September 1, 2009 7:48 pm

    I like it when u take up these social causes. :)

  21. September 2, 2009 12:21 am

    Thanks Neeta for writting it. I agree.
    The security personnel often become unnecessarily rude.

  22. September 2, 2009 9:58 am

    Am a regular at PVR Goregaon and have been one at Bangalore too. Thankfully, both of these places employ civil – if not polite – security staff. They do do their job – I have seen chips, chocolates and biscuits confiscated. And have waited in line while an auntie’s capacious bag yielded dabba, bottle and mints.
    But you know what gets my goat? The fact that the entry and exit points are never nearby. So once you step out, if you do remember your confiscated biscuit packet, its quite a walk to the baggage claim.
    I remember my grandfather complaining about the Re 1 markup on a popcorn packet a couple of decades ago. I wonder about his reaction to the obscenely priced food items at today’s ‘in’ multiplexes.

    • September 2, 2009 10:20 am

      Priyanka, well, that is all that one asks for, polite staff who doesn’t ask insulting questions. I have a medium sized bag which usually has two specs cases, several pens, a
      a wallet, hankerchief, bills, receipts, credit card, driving license, shopping discount cards, three sets of keys, pass port sized photos of the whole family ( always carry these around) as well as a photo of my parents. At times a camera. Never any food. What gets my goat is that despite my bag being thoroughly checked, literally taken upside down because of the stuff in it, they still glare at me and ask chocolate hai, chewing gum hai!! Each and every time and I have been that stupid theatre at least 50 times. My husband is never checked and he is never asked that question. I wonder if they are profiling people. I mean I am not a young woman and carry a roomy purse so are they targeting people like me? Suprising, because it is young mothers who are more likely to carry foodstuff in their bag. I know I always kept food and water in my purse when I had growing kids (I never used to give them outside food) but thankfully at that time movie hall owners were not as crazy as they are now.

      • September 8, 2009 2:03 pm

        May be it is becoz you look like a caring nice mother and they think you must be carrying food for children :lol: :D

        But that means I should have children with me, right? :) – Nita

  23. September 2, 2009 10:08 am

    I also think that you should also write a post and should spread an awareness about the enormous amount they charge for popcorn, colddrink and mineral water .. The prices thay have put up for these edible items are just insanely inapporiate .. Having crunching Popcorn and a sip of cold Pepsi along with the movie has its own charm and pleasure but this huge whole in the pocket that will be created when u buy it, is making this charm dimmer and darker ..

    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
      September 2, 2009 11:04 am

      Soham,

      It is now customary for “free” markets to manipulate prices and charge whatever the buyer is willing to shell out. This manipulative power is reinforced by a phenomenon which cynics like call “restrictive trade practices” (a number of politically correct euphemisms also exist for this term — you will find them in the time series literature on GATT-WTO and other similar sanctified cartels), that empower various entities, from multiplexes to national governments, to restrict and control the operation of “perfect competition”, which would provide the checks and balances to keep prices under control.

      Having said that, no one is compelling you (as yet) to buy popcorn and Pepsi at the theatre. You always have the option of buying and consuming them before you submit yourself to the masochistic pleasure of entering the hallowed premises. :-)

      • September 2, 2009 11:43 am

        Vivek, but unfortunately cinema owners are taking revenge on patrons for not buying their foodstuff! They are harassing them before they enter! There is only one option left. Stop going to that theatre!!

        • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
          September 2, 2009 11:53 am

          Nita,

          Very true! Actually I was refraining from suggesting it, but at least someone like you who is an avid and serious (even when the movies are not) cine-goer and writes reviews — with or without pecuniary reward — must consider investing in a good home-theatre system, rent DVDs and watch at home. Given the prices I hear of tickets at multiplexes, of popcorn and Pepsi, of the cost of the trip back and forth, I am sure you would recover your investment in a couple of years.

      • September 2, 2009 11:47 am

        Hmmmm ..

        Well, to hv a munching of popcorn and a sip of pepsi along with the movie that I enjoy .. It’s not about the taste nor I am not fond of popcorn very much, it is just that ke it adds more thrill and more fun to the whole movie-watching experience .. SO consuming popcorn and pepsi outside the theatre premises and then to watch a movie is not the best of the idea for me ..

        On a lighter note, please use this kind of flowery and showery language for English-Literature writing and not for comment-writing ;-))) .. Sometimes it becomes difficult to understand and hence I may miss out the profound meaning and significance of your comment\analysis .. Just a thought .. I may sound like a stupid here !!

        • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
          September 2, 2009 11:57 am

          Soham,

          My apologies for the language. I was just having fun. My usual bread-and-butter writing or editing does not permit such luxuries. The current spell was triggered off by Shefaly’s “bread and circuses” allusion yesterday. :-)

          • September 2, 2009 12:23 pm

            Ha ha ha ha ..

            I too had fun reading ur comments and finding out the meaning of few words from microsoft word dictionary ;-) ..

            In this sms-generation, grammar and spelling are for dinosaurs !!

            • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
              September 2, 2009 1:40 pm

              Soham,

              That depends on what occupation you are in. There are still several enduring fields of activity in which formal communication is expected to adhere to Jurassic conventions. The livelihoods of people like me depend on this.

              I regret I am not familiar with the Microsoft Word Dictionary. If I have to use an online reference, I prefer http://www.dictionary.com . It also gives me access to a very useful Thesaurus [which, BTW, is not the name of a Mesozoic reptilian species :-) ], besides somewhat basic options on an Encyclopedia and a Translator.

          • rags permalink
            September 2, 2009 7:04 pm

            Well, actually it’s a nice writing style. :)

            I enjoy reading your comments mainly because of the way it is framed.. Simple minded folks like me usually can’t/won’t write like this.

  24. September 2, 2009 3:09 pm

    Nita. Its a very interesting observation and post about your experience. Its unfortunate.

    However,I’m not sure we should rush to conclude that there is deliberate targeting of people and curbing of freedoms – by either the corporate biggies/cinema owners or the security personnel. I guess its a wrong way of executing security measures without being sensitive to customers. But not deliberate. And it may not be happening to everybody everywhere. Perhaps security personnel need to be educated on their conduct and cinema owners need to be a little more accountable of their personnel’s conduct or to be more precise “misconduct”.

    About corporates wanting to sell & promote their food products…its not a new thing…there is nothing clandestine going on…any restaurant would prohibit outside food right? So I don’t think there is a “grand conspiracy” here…yeah…they wnat to sell their food…ok…but you don’t have to buy it..I don’t…I find it expensive.

    But yes…perhaps cinema owners could review their procedures on security measures.I don’t believe we should do away with it completely..but we could avoid unnecessary aspects to frisking…if its possible…

    I think we are also guilty of ‘profiling’ we start believing or pre-empt that every security personnel has a personal agenda to humilate me or us. They are just doing their jobs..and are probably misinformed about procedure… or their bosses included an unnecessary element in their security procedure without considering sensitivity to the customer’s issues. Some… I agree, could be mis-using the authority and should be reprimanded. But lets not demonise the all..security personnel are people..they’re human.

    Its just what i feel..I’m not discrediting your opinion or trivializing your experience…. :)

    • September 2, 2009 4:23 pm

      Oh but J, I agree with everything what you say. It’s the way of enforcing the rules which I object to. It’s the rudeness I object to. In face I have even specified the movie halls, and also the cities. It is rude behavior of the staff which I object to, and strongly. And yes I do object to being asked about chewing gum and food, even after checking of my bag. I have tried complaining to this PVR Mulund for the last one year, several times, but there was no response until I complained to the top man. If this is not what I conveyed, then it is a lapse in my communication. I have never had such experiences in restaurants. Never even once. In any case, not a single restaurant even checks bags!! You see what I mean? Sure, in a dark movie hall it is more possible to get away by sneaking and eating food, but I think this frisking happens only in India. Why? Only Indians are greedy, sneaky people? And why is food frisking more thorough than frisking for knives, explosives and the like? I think its sick, the way they do it. I can’t even use my hanky after that!
      If you ask me, I think checking women’s purses for food (even Soham said his wife’s purse was frisked for food) is humiliating. I don’t know why people are okay with it, why they think it is normal and understandable. Even I was tolerating it, but the asking thing got too much. We Indians are far too tolerant if you ask me.

  25. September 2, 2009 6:55 pm

    Nita, every time I go to the movies I dread the PVR, I usually try to avoid it as much as possible because of the security checking. Once they even made a fuss about some medication I had on me. Among our friends we always joke that we should get prepared for a ‘cavity search’ at the PVR. I have been checked less aggressively at airports than at that chain of multiplexes.

    In any case about the food, its not like they have a lot of variety at their stands. I am not so fond of cinema food. I do not see why they have to have so much of security just before entering the movies when the other parts of the building are not that secured anyway, especially their basement parkings. If you get my hint….

    • September 2, 2009 7:09 pm

      Do you think Odzer that they are simply mentally unbalanced? I am coming round to that opinion. There is absolutely no logic or humanity in their behavior. I too have been prevented from taking cough drops inside, and once an empty biscuit wrapper! Totally empty!! Not even a small bit of biscuit in it! And the only reason it was there because we had taken a train journey a few days before and I had forgotten to clean out my purse. But there was not even half a biscuit in it!! Not even a quarter, or one sixth of a quarter!! And I doubt whether they care for their security because I have seen construction workers and employees enter the Nirmal Lifestyle mall (where PVR Mulund is situated) with sacks of material which is not checked! I have even protested and the security person had told me that they “know” the person!! As for basement parking, forget it. The checks are cursory, and casual. Its not the security they are worried about thats for sure.
      And you are right. I had a much better time during my visit to Chennai this time, at Mumbai airport. They were efficient, but not aggressive or rude at all.

      • September 2, 2009 11:34 pm

        Yes they are unbalanced. When I was being checked and they found the medications the guard asked me what they were for! When I told him he replied, “Yeah this is just my part time job, I am studying to be a medical doctor”. He was extremely sarcastic.

        When entering the Cinema here, you get frisked 3 times, once you enter the mall, again then at the entrance to the Cinema, then you go past a metal detector and again get frisked. INSANE! You are right in that they have construction workers, random staff and even normal people walking in from the entrances just unchecked. I have never faced such problem at other chains like Fun Cinemas and DT Cinemas here.

    • September 3, 2009 8:02 am

      Odzer, One person’s experience at PVR can be an happening, the second person’s experience can be a coincidence, the third person’s experience means that something serious is going on. When it comes to the fourth person’s it means there is something crazy going on. And you are the fifth to complain on this blog. I am sure there are many who have not read my blog but have a grudge against PVR. Other commentators have had experiences in Hyderabad, some in Mumbai and you in Chandigarh. Looks like the PVR management is to blame, and not the ferocious woman at the counter. Some crazy guy has probably trained them to harass customers. Its either crazy or totally brainless.

      • Vinod permalink
        September 3, 2009 9:05 am

        I wonder whether all this could be a sign of getting back at the upper middle class by the lower middle, as the disparities in India get more and more visible.

        • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
          September 3, 2009 10:48 am

          Vinod,

          You may be right. And if so, we have way to go! This is just the beginnings of what could evolve into regular class wars.

        • September 3, 2009 10:52 am

          Or It could just be that you put any monkey in a uniform in this country and power goes to their head!

  26. September 3, 2009 7:25 am

    Hi! new to your lovely blog! And loving reading it! It must be embarassing to be checked for food…! However, envy you for being there in Mumbai! :)

  27. September 3, 2009 11:43 am

    :) I understand….

    ‘I have tried complaining to this PVR Mulund for the last one year, several times, but there was no response until I complained to the top man.”

    I really hope you continue to raise this with the concerned managements…perhaps it could lead to changes….my only suggestion is lets not direct our frustration at a hapless security personnel who may be mis-informed…I have come across some security people who seemed visibly uncomfortable with some aspects of security procedures and ackward asking some standard questions…some sheepishly smile and say its what they’ve been asked to do…

    ”I think checking women’s purses for food (even Soham said his wife’s purse was frisked for food) is humiliating. I don’t know why people are okay with it, why they think it is normal and understandable. Even I was tolerating it, but the asking thing got too much. We Indians are far too tolerant if you ask me.”

    Different people may find different aspects of security measures objectionable and again this would differ from culture to culture. I don’t think this is specific to India..it happens in various laces in different contexts….But I don’t know how every concern can be accomodated in a standard security procedures…it would take time….I do however think sensitivity to certain aspects can be included and aligned towards customer service…etc…

    Nita…lets not lose hope…change takes time..systems..attitudes…etc. The good thing is we are having these discussions…perhaps we need to be more inclusive of the other side – security personnel…its true in some cases the socio-economic divide plays a role…lets not discount the need to see the other side’s view.

  28. September 3, 2009 12:20 pm

    Good that you took it up with the authorities. I think not allowing one to take mint/ chewing gum is pretty rude..what if couples want to ahem ….;)

  29. September 3, 2009 8:40 pm

    So true. But my daughter was carrying in her bag a box of garlic bread and the lady asked ‘yeh kya hai’ and she said ‘garlic bread’, and the lady said ‘achcha, teek hai’ and she happily brought it in and I enjoyed it. But most of them are just terrible. I don’t think they even know what to look for and anyone intent on doing harm can easily slip by, it is the innocent cinema goer who is put to inconvenience.

  30. September 4, 2009 6:13 pm

    Yes, the security check for bombs etc are acceptable, but confiscating food items are terrible.
    But then its the mangement right to decide on their security/food checks. Like in hotels, they do not normally entertain outside food/liquor.
    The major business for these multiplexes would be the food/snacks they sell (10rs popcorn for 100rs). But I think the attitude of these ‘food inspectors’ and multiplexes towards their customers should be a little more polite when they do the inspection.

  31. Akshay Shah permalink
    September 6, 2009 2:31 am

    Dear Nita,

    Pleased to read ur blog and the posts made by so many above. I am from Rajkot (Gujarat) and my wife is from Mumbai. I commute between Rajkot and Mumbai so often.

    Just yesterday, I went to see “Kaminey” in cinemax Rajkot with my wife. I had two chocolates in my pocket. The security personel asked us to leave the same with him. However, i insisted to call the manager.

    I the operational manager whether they sale chocolate in their food stall to which he denied. After so much of arguments, the operational manager asked me that he is allowing me to take one out of two choclates. What his say was that “we adjusted one, u adjust one” i.e. he moved one step ahead now I should move one step ahead to forego one.

    I asked him whats wrong in taking two if you are allowing me to take one inside. If its 50% – 50% game, I bring 4 more and then u allow me to take 3 out of 6 inside. Eventually, i was allowed to take both the chocolates at the cost of initial 27 minutes of the movie.

    The reason the manager gave me not to allow the chocolates inside the theater was funny and rediculous. According to him, earlier they were selling the cocolates on their counter. However, due to the “Cadbury” issue, they discontinued selling it. I shuld mention here that the staff was not rude and mannerless.

    The theater at Rajkot sells various sandwiches and samosa’s (which they dont prepare themseleves. As my own cousin bro supply these items to the cinema hall.) As discussed earlier in the posts, they want to maximise their profit. The price at which the Samosa is purchsed from my cousin is @ Rs.9/- with the sale price @ Rs.30/- and the sandwich they purchase @ Rs.12 for that they charge Rs.35/-. However, the manager, in a way, was telling that the sandwiches and Samosa being sold by them (prepared and supplied by local person) are more hygenic than the cadbury branded chocolate. Dont u find it funny and rediculous?? The most funniest part is that cadbury issue was in October and November, 2003 where existance of Cinemax Multiplex is a question. Atlest, in Rajkot, cinemax is not just a baby of even 1 year.

    If they give the reason of cleanliness in the cinema hall, the popcorn pop ups more on the ground than chocolate. Sandwiches and samosa also come with plastic raper. So the question of cleanliness and garbate doesnt arise.

    However, usually they are interested to sale such items where there is no price tags as in the case of Samosa, Sandwich, Popcorn, fountain softdrinks packed in glass. Ideally, any food item is required to have weight on the package, price, date of mfg., date of expiry, green or red mark for veg non-veg.. However, they are not supposed to follow such rules for food items.

    I agree with you that the frisking is only in india. And yes, we Indian tolerate a lot because of lack of awareness, lack of courage, lack of But sneaking is universal.. Go through the link below…

    http://www.queercents.com/2006/11/14/bring-your-own-food/

    And well, while searching, i found one more interesting page where a Candian Cinema is fined $10000 for privacy evasion. check the link below:

    http://boingboing.net/2009/05/30/canadian-cinema-fine.html

    On one hand they charge exorbitant and on the other they dont allow to carry even chocolates and sweets. Its not the question of affording. If I can afford a movie ticket at Multiplex, I can surely afford the food. But, its the feeling of being cheated. Why one need to be cheated??

    Its good that you have raised the issue. However, to my view the blog is not just sufficient. Everyone may not visit it. An email campaign should go ahead and like minded people including lawers and legal personalities should join together to stop this nonsence.

    A PIL can also be filed making the ministry or regulatory authority a party alongwith the cinema hall should also be made a party. Also, group of like minded people can take action in consumer courts. I dont know whether this is infringement of one’s basic right under constiituion. A legal opinion can serve the purpose. For details about PIL, go through the link below:

    http://www.amitu.com/blog/2007/august/how-file-pil-india/

    Please consider me a like minded and tell me if anything is to be done further.

    Regards,

    Akshay Shah

    p.s. I am a Chartered Accountant by profession.

    • September 6, 2009 7:01 am

      Akshay, It was heartening to read your comment. I agree with you whole heartedly that this is a violation of our constitutional right, only I didn’t articulate it the way you did. In freedom loving countries no one will tolerate this mean and petty behavior which is a violation of our freedom. You are lucky the they were not rude. My experience at PVR has been unfortunate. Besides the rudely asked questions, I find someone’s dirty fingers plunging into my purse, mauling my fresh hankies and touching every singe thing in it (I have tried to do this job myself but have not been allowed) and I find obnoxious and unacceptable. I agree with you that we citizens need to come together and do something about this. However I am not sure whether the law will be on our side. These cinema people have the money power and they can hire lawyers who will argue that this is not food checking at all! You see how the lies are at the tip of their tongue when they tell you why the cadbury is banned?
      In India outside food was never allowed in cinemas but this kind of intrusive food checking started at the same time as the security checkiing. Once the cinema hall owners realised that the customers have to tolerate the security checking, they started the same novel method of food frisking. So customers are checked for security reasons at entry (which is often not thorough) and then a thorough and intrusive checking (depending on which mall it is) before one enters the theatre. I know one thing for sure. If customers had been checked like this before the terrorist scare in Mumbai, then they would have protested. The security checking has got them inured to checking overall. They bear it.
      But I agree, the food frisking on the part of multiplexes has to stop.
      Thanks for the links. They give a good perspective about how things are in developed countries. we are all human beings after all, and I think the public there is more conscious of their rights and thus have a better time. In India they check purses as if we are some sort of criminals! Luckily I could fight with them because no food was found in my purse. I think I would have felt less confident if a bit of chewing gum or chocolate would have been found. I applaud you for taking a stand.

  32. September 6, 2009 9:29 am

    Interesting post, Nita. And seems like some cineplex employees are being over-zealous to the point of being rude. I don’t know what the present situation is in India wrt distribution of revenues, (and I may have mentioned this earlier) but at least in the US, theater owners get a very tiny part of the revenue from ticket sales, and most of it goes to the distributors/producers. So, the only way they can run a theater without going in the red is to sell over-priced food and not allow outside food.
    So many customers here in the US don’t really know the behind-the-scenes goings-on regarding distribution of revenues from ticket sales, and express surprise at the (high) price of popcorn, candy and drinks, but that’s a necessary survival strategy for theater owners, more so for independent and small theaters. Much of the “food” sold at most movie theaters is not quite healthy, but that’s another story.

    • September 6, 2009 10:17 am

      Amit, true most movie goers do not realise the commercial implications. However as you mentioned some staff and supervisor go the extra mile to check and this is what causes problems. Actually most of these people are not properly trained. Even when it comes to security guards at residential colonies, many of them are not adequately trained. When they complain that customers are complaining, they should look into themselves and the methods employed to do their jobs. Rough and arrogant treatment may work in the short term but finally it defeats the very purpose of the theatre owners. People start to prefer theatres where the checking is not stringent and this has nothing to do with whether they carry food or not. So you see, it doesn’t make business sense to do what they are doing.
      Also there is another problem in India. The public tends to be tolerant and ignores a lot of things, whether its a bad quality product or an infringement of our rights, often not knowing what their rights are.

  33. October 6, 2009 8:20 pm

    Ha ha that was funny and serious.
    I mean every body experiences this but fail to protest. You are suppose to walk through a metal detector and IT BEEPS , but thats OK.
    They rumage through your bags (especially lady’s bag) but hardly go through the men’s pockets. (I have smuggled in chicken rolls in my pocket at Inox – and that too bought from Marz-o-rin)

  34. October 21, 2009 11:10 pm

    Indians being Indians will anyway bring in the cheaper food from outside to save few pennies and hence the checking.It makes business sense because they earn their revenues by taxing the vendors who sell food inside the mall/cinema.
    Since I am working with people from different nationalities, I sort of realise the fact that we Indians are the least courteous lot, hence your letter is justified.

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