Travails of an Indian movie goer
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?
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.
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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