PVR and theaters are not running, temporarily stopped. But at this juncture, I am thinking of my past experience of movie watching as a single woman. It was a time when going to a theater was considered as weird and a social taboo.

I hardly went to the movie alone, no woman nor a girl did, was it due to social taboo or was they were afraid? It was not so easy for me to comprehend. In my childhood, I would coax my parents to do the advance bookings and off we would go to see Amitab Bacchan’s dashing scenes, Rishi Kapoor’s romantic extravaganza, and Zeenat Aman’s grace, but I never saw any single woman in a theatre alone. She had to be with her family, friend, boyfriend, or husband.  It was weird for a woman to sit alone in a dark theatre, her mouth opened and popcorn in her hand. But it was not the same for men.  What happened to me and why I am remembering now the viewing experience of the past as I am watching a movie on my smart TV set that too Delhi Crime.

I was a college-going girl who ventured to go anywhere else, pursuing my professional goals and going shopping but I never dared to watch movies alone. The reason was not much due to social taboo as it was to nefarious designs of men. It was he vs she. He could sit the way he want, and with his legs wide open, while there was a fear of sexual harassment and eve-teasing for her. Secondly, it was not easy for her to stand in a queue of desperate men to buy tickets; there were crowds, rush, rowdies, and black ticket sellers.

I am talking of “Unh Dino”, earlier nineties when eve-teasing was rampant; a man could easily make a girl target of his lustful eyes. The dark theatre was a great opportunity to touch her, a girl who dares to sit alone. 

Once I and my friend wore the best dresses for the daredevil undertaking to watch a movie in Mumbai. It was an English one, a taboo in many families, but it was “Home Alone”, a story of a child who was mistakenly left alone at home as the whole family went on vacation, and what the child did to pass his time and save himself from intruders. So it was a children’s movie, funny and nice.

Theatre went dark, everything was going well, and the movie was great. We were laughing and, enjoyed each scene of it. But at lunchtime, I got perplexed at the sudden intrusion into my privacy.  I had gone to the washroom.  My dress was flared, it waved as I moved. As I stepped down the stairs, to come out of the hall, a man was standing at the food counter; he must be middle-aged with a child.  He started gazing at me with his luscious eyes, but I ignored him, went straight to wash, and rushed back to take my seat, without looking here and there. As the theatre darkened, I started feeling like somebody is touching me.  The same man was sitting just behind my seat. In those days there would be no such privacy in between the seats, and darkness was an opportunity for men to lick their evil lips. I looked behind and here and there.  As the theatre was so dark, it was very difficult to make out who was doing this, I thought I must be imagining. But it continued, I tried to save myself.  I was very timid, though feeling uncomfortable but dared not take any action. As the movie ended, we rushed outside but he continued to stalk us. We both started running finally reaching the crowded place and he vanished.

This would happen at the movie theatres when movie-going was a craze and tickets would sell in black. It was get together of a family, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband-wife who wanted to have some moments together, eating popcorn and enjoying what we are so crazy about. But it was not for single women, a one who dared to go easily rendered a toy girl, a target of the luscious eyes.

But thanks to the year 1997, when theatres turned into PVR, a company that slowly turned into a brand. It ensured double comfort, full entertainment and security.

Still, girls do not venture alone to even PVT, though the reasons are different.  The experience changed becoming more of a family thing and of partying and watching. I too once went to see a movie this time at the age of 48 alone, back seat, reclining, and comfortable. Families were enjoying eating and watching, with no interference, no eyeballs rolling, and no stalking. Even if I got completely engrossed in the movie there was no one to even glare at me.  At lunchtime I got a bit bored, there was no one to eat with me and I hesitated to buy and eat alone, yet I had a cup of coffee.

 Now again, everything has changed as the pandemic hit the world. Theatres are closed now and we can enjoy movie watching on Netflix, Amazon, and other platforms. But, unlock 2 is going to happen and theatres would be the last thing to get opened. But the experience would not be the same again, though we expect safety would be ensured with enough space between the seats, a complete sensitization program for the viewers, physically as well over the men’s mentality and intensity. We expect it would be a moment for the women to open up and go watch a favourite movie.  

No doubt coronavirus is deadly but it has taught men, do not dare! And it would be an eye-opener for the PVR owners to ensure the safety of women and children so that they enjoy and experience the PVR thing. Believe me, if we live alone, shop alone, and even fly aeroplanes then it should not be made a big thing to watch movies alone. It’s our life; we will and will do it.