As a young child I grew in a family where watching films was not considered proper. It required lot of cajoling and patience to be permitted to see an odd movie perhaps a couple of times a year. The picture stayed in one's mind till it was wiped out by another movie. It did not take long for me to learn the trick of saving up from the meager pocket money I got, enough to be able to buy a third class ticket in the movie theaters. 

Along with other similar friends, we would go to see a movie. After standing in a line for an eternity when our number came to buy the third class ticket we would e filled with joy at having made it. The struggle of having to hold one's position in the ever shifting line full of toughies and odd looking characters taught me to face many odds in later life. 

It was almost always that I would land up buying a ticket which would entitle me to sit in the front row perhaps 8 to 10 feet away from the screen. At first, I found it odd but soon began to like being seated in the first row preferably in one of the the center seats. The reason was that at this seating position one becomes part of the movie rather than part of the audience. It is simply a thrilling experience. Imagine when the villain is bashing the hero you also duck and when the hero is giving it back you also join in. Same with the heroines but in a different sense. The feeling at the end of the movie is one of Paisa vasool.

I saw the movie  Gone With The Wind   from a center seat in the first row in a theater in Delhi. I had purchased the ticket in black. As soon as I was seated the movie started. The scene was a wide bridge is being crossed in a car. Believe me I felt I was myself crossing the bridge in an American city in a wide bodied car. It has always remained with me as one of my sweet memories of my college days. I would try to see as many movies as possible from the front row or rows. Another movie I saw from the front row center seat was the Hindi movie Prince and the opening shot shows the royal flag coming down and the Indian flag go up. At such near distance it was as if I was hoisting the flag. Memories.

There was an English movie of Marilyn Monroe whose name I forget which I was enjoying from the second or third row center row seat and just as the hero was warming up the scene with her, the lights went out. So involved were the "third class' front row persons that no sooner had the power failed, many of them got up and started damaging the bare wooden seats breaking their arm rests and so on. I was very surprised but realized their frustration at the timing of the power failure.

In many movies I have seen the 'third class' audience liberally throw coins on the screen when popular song came on the screen. The sound of falling coins added a peculiar charm to the wonderful song on the screen. Hooting and whistling was quite common. It was the solid involvement of this audience with the characters on the screen that was a joy to watch. Many a times the person next to me would fold his legs on the chair and sit in an excited position as soon as the hero started bashing the villain and verbally encourage the hero to give it to the bad man.

Soon I graduated and got a job in a big city and after a few months got married. Seeing a movie with the 'third class' public was now out of question.  It had to be now watched from the balcony. Every one there would watch without any feeling and gesticulation. No hooting and whistling. However I would hear sounds from near the screen and feel happy. The multiplexes have now totally killed the joy of watching the movies the old noisy and involved way. I often get the feeling that people do not go to see a movie in such theaters, they go to eat pop corns in buckets.

However some time back when the magnum opus Mughl-e- Azam was re-released in colour, I went to see it  alone on the last day last show. My joy knew no bounds when at the ticket window I was informed that only one ticket was available. You guessed it right, it was the center seat of the front row in a prestigious multiplex. I grabbed it and enjoyed the movie in colour  and remembered the good old days.

Recently I went to see the movie Bhag Milkha Bhag at the same theater and at the ticket window I was informed that only three tickets are available in the front row. I took a chance with my better half but she turned down the proposal. I booked a seat in the last but one row of the next show. How could I tell her that athletics are better watched from the front rows.

I am told in single screen theaters there is still the old style thrill alive of watching the movie from the front couple of rows. Must go and see a movie in such theater one of these days. When you come out of a single screen theater you really get a feeling that you have watched a movie but there is generally no such feeling when you come out of a multiplex. At least this is true with persons like me who have watched more movies in single screen theaters.

Ah, did I tell you that I watched Aamir Khan movie,  Lagan, from the third row of a single screen theater. I immensely enjoyed it as I too had become part of the movie's rural audience watching the Indians defeat the English! The joy of watching a movie from the front row cannot be explained, it has to be felt.


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