I’ve always had trouble enjoying magic tricks. It requires a certain suspension of disbelief, a certain wilful participation in the act of deception. Belief in the occult helps too. But even I couldn’t help but be mind-blown by the trick that was orchestrated earlier this week by the city’s cinema theatres, when they all united to channel their inner Houdini. As detailed in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, every magic trick “consists of three parts. The first part is called ‘The Pledge’ in which the magician shows you something ordinary.” This was on Sunday evening when the theatres opened advance bookings for Kabali on their websites. “He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real.” You checked the URL — yes, it was indeed the official site. You checked the seats — yes, they were all green in colour and available for your taking. You checked the movie — yes, it was indeed Kabali. You even pinched yourself just to make sure you weren’t dreaming it all.
“The second act is ‘The Turn’. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary.” This was when you clicked on the show of your choice, even while your heart was thumping in excitement and the riffs of ‘Neruppu Da’ were playing in your head. And then, you saw the extraordinary… when you got an error message telling you that you’ve booked more tickets than you should have. You just booked one, and didn’t understand how you could have booked any less.
“But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call ‘The Prestige’.” You closed your browser and reopened it as quickly as you humanly could. And then, your eyes widened in wonder at what you saw: The Prestige. All the shows were marked red, all the seats taken, and all the tickets sold out. That’s when you understood the greatness of the trick, and of course, you couldn’t help but clap.
So you tried booking Kabali’s ticket online? Hahahaha
I know not of one person, who has managed to book a ticket online for the first day. There are tragic stories on social media of those spending hours in vain. And then, as if to rub salt into the wounds, you hear of corporate organisations giving away FDFS (First Day First Show) tickets to their employees, you hear of Simbu giving away free FDFS tickets to the entire cast and crew of Anbanavan Asaradhavan Adangadhavan, his upcoming film… Surely, these tickets weren’t booked online? Corporate giants have always dwarfed the common man, but in a theatre, those differences paled. Now, even the cinema theatre — that venerable place, that impregnable fortress of the common man, that escape where dreams became real — has been pried away from his weak clutches. Is it any surprise that some influential tweeters are now asking why Rajini’s fans —“en uyirinum melaana rasigargal”— have been left in the lurch?
Internet bookings were supposed to be easy and fast. But given the events of the last week in Chennai, I can’t but be transported to a seemingly romantic time in the not-so-distant past when advance bookings had little to do with furious, futile clicks of the mouse. Back then, reservations meant standing in a long, unwinding queue at sunrise. It meant peering over the crowd in anticipation of the booking counter getting open, and letting a loud cheer when it eventually did. It meant excited conversations about the movie with strangers in the queue. It meant asking a fellow fan to hold your position, while you stepped out for a bit of water and food. It meant knowing that as long as you arrived early enough, you could give yourself a fighting chance. It meant that if you cared enough to watch a movie first day first show, you could. It meant that it was all almost… fair.