There is hushed silence in the theatre. The audience is holding its collective breath. Even the lady seated next to me pauses her vociferous attack on the endless heap of extra-crackling nachos. All eyes are on the screen. The heartbreakingly earnest (and also deaf-and-mute, illiterate, pitifully poor and orphan) Barfi is about to profess his love to the beautiful new visitor in his town, the girl who swept him off of his feet at first sight. His doe-eyes and articulate hands start to do the talking. You wonder what he’ll ‘say’ and how the bewildered girl (who is dazzlingly Miss India-like, extremely poised, rich, and seemingly well educated, i.e. someone who would be clearly out of his league in the normal realm) will react. Will she, won’t she?
But just when all the plot elements are aligning to pummel your stony heart into mushy pulp, and right when your lower lip starts to quiver like the shaking bosom of an item dancer, there is a loud chant of an “Om Sai Ram” bhajan, followed by a booming “Hello!”
Hello? Well, more like thank you, God, and the Jaunty In-Theatre Avid Mobile Phone User (let’s call him JITAMPU for short). Thank you for killing the moment. That totally sappy, flustering, wretched highlight moment of the film that the writer perhaps took insanely long to write, and the director and actors toiled futilely to bring to life. Oh and not to forget the foolish audience in the theatre who paid good money to debase itself with this tripe.
Thank you, JITAMPU, for instantly snapping our attention away from the humdrum bungle on the screen to the hummable jingle of your cellphone. Thank you for reminding us that we need to junk our current ringtones and get something spiritual. We could select any one of the greatest hits from Asstha (or is it spelled Aastha?) channel. Or if we decide that the invocation of holy chants every time anyone calls is not our thing, we can always seek the latest Punjabi shake-a-thon by Mika. Surely that is a good sound to jiggle one’s (times 250 souls in the theatre) attention.
One’s got to admire your single-minded tenacity on your call, JITAMPU. You are oblivious to the jerk behind you who mumbles something like, ”Bhai saab, baki ki baatein ghar par kar lena.” Your motto in life is crystal clear – why leave for tomorrow something that can be addressed right away, right here, right now?
We specially love your love for long extended phone conversations. Why end the call in under 10-minutes when a simple “Aur bata?” can extend it by 15 more? In these times, when cellphone companies are out to fleece us by slapping all kinds of charges even on minimal usage, you, JITAMPU, are thumbing your nose at them by showing them who the boss is. Bravo.
Finally, a quick word of appreciation for your Wily Caller Buddy. It can’t just be serendipity that he called right in the middle of the quietest and most important scene in the film. I think he has superhuman powers! How else, if it weren’t for those magical gifts, could he have known that right about now, you would be seated comfortably amidst zero ambient noise and wouldn’t, inadvertently, miss his call?
I say, who goes to the theatre to really watch a movie these days anyway? Who wants to pay attention to the unfolding story and appreciate or chastise its moments? Or to laugh or cry with the characters? Or even hum and tap their feet to the music? Obviously, everyone’s in the theatre only for the popcorn (or nachos) and the air conditioning.
And, of course, to listen to JITAMPU’s discourses.