Notes from watching Golmaal Again on the big screen in New Zealand, for the first time since Coronavirus pandemic
Last week saw the re-release of the 2017 film Golmaal Again in New Zealand’s cinemas.
New Zealand: A tiny pacific island nation that’s making world headlines in 2020, and for all the right reasons. Having been historically clubbed together with, or sometimes even mistaken for, Australia (much to the chagrin of New Zealanders!), the country has finally built a very exclusive reputation for itself.
Being Covid-free, or very nearly so, at a time when the rest of the world is still on fire – is no mean feat. Just like all other countries who have managed to contain the spread of this deadly disease, New Zealand too implemented a strict lockdown to achieve this; among the strictest in the world.
But as the lockdown slowly eased, catch-ups with friends & family, enjoying outdoor activities, and flocking to public places were among the first social behaviours seen in New Zealanders. A recent rugby game saw Auckland’s Eden Park stadium packed to capacity – a phenomenon not witnessed for a long time, even pre-lockdown. Malls and popular outdoor spots started to see signs of life as well.
With cinemas, though, the interest seemed diluted, possibly due to varied factors. Foremost, the fact that with the filmmaking industry coming to a standstill, there are no new films releasing. Secondly, when it comes to Bollywood and other foreign language films, not all new films reach New Zealand theatres, owing to the country’s limited audience size. And when films do arrive at our shores, they arrive a tad later than to the rest of the world. Moreover, with web television gaining popularity and many new releases making their debut on this medium, cinemas could be well on their way out, in the distant, if not near future.
Last week saw the re-release of the 2017 film Golmaal Again in New Zealand’s cinemas. Curiosity and a desire to watch a movie on the big screen after a long hiatus took me to Event Cinemas on Sunday afternoon in Auckland’s Westcity mall. Being an old movie and one that wasn’t particularly successful, I did not expect a large turnout at all, but what I absolutely did not expect was that I’d be watching the film in a movie hall occupied by all of two people, me being one of them!
Inside the cinemas’ admin area, I watched the empty ticket & food counters with mild amusement and waited patiently for a staff member to show up. I hadn’t pre-booked online – There was no need to. Tickets getting sold out is seldom an issue – and not just in the current circumstances. I’ve often walked into cinema halls in New Zealand minutes before the start time of a movie, and purchased tickets easily over the counter.
No one showed up for several minutes. I eventually went to the self-service kiosk and helped myself to a ticket. Had to make do without movie snacks, though. More eeriness followed. There was no one to check and tear up tickets prior to entering the cinema hall. I could have very well just walked right in without a ticket and no one would’ve questioned me. I know this because I did walk in without being checked, and sometime in the middle of the movie, a cinemas’ staff member did walk in and glance around. She did not ask for my ticket, being fully aware that I probably hadn’t been checked prior to entering.
Inside the movie hall, I glanced at my only other companion, a male youth, sitting by himself at the topmost row. He did not return my glance, and I sat myself down a few rows below. The opening song had just commenced, and even though it was a movie I wasn’t particularly excited about watching, I felt the adrenaline rush instantly.
The large screen, the bright cheerful colours, and the riveting sound system lifted my mood instantly and brought back nostalgia of a fully packed theatre at the screening of a popular movie. The comic timing of Golmaal Again was quite average; nevertheless, I enjoyed it. It felt good to laugh, and to enjoy something at face value, without trying to intellectualise it or critique the lack of realism. My feelings appeared to be the consequence of sheer repression through lockdown, and an increased perceived value of a simple activity like watching a movie on big screen.
As I left the theatre, I glanced once again at my companion, who did return my gaze this time. It was silent acknowledgement of each other’s company through the duration of the film, albeit at a significant distance from each other, surreally indicative of the “new normal” that is social distancing. A phenomenon, a habit, a rule that arrived in 2020 and is arguably here to stay, even in Covid-free New Zealand.
Mahima Sud is a freelance writer based in Auckland, New Zealand.
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