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!