Chennai Entry 17: Finger Lickin’ Good

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The name’s Bond. James Bond. And the already rather nonsensical storyline of my latest filmic appearance is even harder to understand when I’m being drowned out by 80 Indian teenagers and their mobile phones. But never mind – don’t I look craggily attractive in this bloodstained tuxedo?

That was pretty much the impression I took from our outing to see Quantum of Solace this week, which despite the constant surrounding noise I enjoyed a lot. A bit of a crash-bang-wallop film, more Bourne than Bond, with lots of quick cuts and meaty punches and a not-altogether-coherent plot. But give Craig his due – he works a bloodstained tuxedo and a slightly misshapen face like no one else. And I will, of course, remember it for having seen it in an Indian cinema. Suriya and Paul booked tickets for the four of us at a theatre situated on the top floor of Citi Centre, the biggest and most modern shopping mall in Chennai. We went straight from work to beat the traffic, and bought surprisingly good hot chocolates on our way up. Suriya was delighted to have found a hot drink I enjoy: sweet milky coffee is the beating heart of South Indian cuisine, and every time I turn down a cup (twice a day, as well as during meals) I can see a little spasm of pain cross the face of whoever’s asking. It’s like I’ve insulted their grandmother or something. Mere hot chocolate was not quite substantial enough for Paul, who darted into KFC and had actually joined the queue for a Bargain Bucket before we managed to steer him back out again.

Suriya and Paul represent the opposite ends of the spectrum of cinema-goers: Suriya watches a film (or ‘filum’) three or four times a month with whoever will accompany him; Paul had not been to see a film for four years, until yesterday (I assume any extra time left over after family and work is taken up by honing his unique musical talents). This was reflected in their attention levels. On my right, Suriya sat enthralled, chortling immoderately at the dialogue (even the dialogue that wasn’t funny) and emitting soft, heartfelt ‘wow’s during the fight scenes. Margaret tells me that Paul, on her left, spent most of the film adding to the ringtone symphony. I’m not sure what Margaret herself thought of the film: the cinema was large and comfortable with huge padded seats, but the volume was deafeningly, crashingly loud; with this and the oversized screen it felt much like an IMAX movie, minus the glasses.

Afterwards we did in fact go to KFC for hot wings and discussion of the film. Suriya thought ‘it was quite thrilling, actually’ (Indians overuse the word ‘actually’, to slightly confusing but endearing effect). In the car on the way back, the following conversation occurred:

Paul: I think Bond is not for real life.

Me (laughing): Definitely not – don’t go trying to leap off any buildings in real life!

Paul (genuinely troubled): No – he is not true for life, this Bond. Just for cinema.

Suriya (reassuringly): No Paul, do not worry, he is not intended to be realistic. He is for cinema only.

(Paul looks unconvinced.)

I think Paul needs to go to the cinema more often. What would he have thought if it had been Pierce Brosnan and his invisible car?!

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