As movies shrink into gadgets, young Indians watch on

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By Mohita Nagpal

New Delhi, Nov 21 (IANS) Roman Polanski once said, "Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theatre." Had the Polish-French director seen 30-year-old Vimarsh Bajpai enjoying movies in trains and cars, completely oblivious to his surroundings, he would have been a happy man.

Bajpai, a jet-setting Delhi-based communication and content consultant who consumes the majority of his cinema on the move, is a proud owner of an iPod Touch - the one gadget he "will never bargain for".

He belongs to a new breed of movie watchers who like their cinema personalised, isolated and customised - on laptops, iPods and other devious little portable gadgets. The tribe is part of a technological revolution which is changing the dynamics of the movie experience in India.

"For me, movie watching is not something that just has entertainment value; it also shapes my thinking. There are certain scenes in movies like 'The Shawshank Redemption' which I always remember and go back to for my personal experience, any time, anywhere, at the click of a button," Bajpai said.

From the humble black and white TV and charming single screen theatre to snazzy iPods and nomadic laptops, the movie baton has passed through many mediums. Some bowed out with the changing times, while some have held their ground.

Tech-guru Rajiv Makhni calls the trend a "revolution".

"People are watching movies on iPads, laptops...All this is happening because we have gone digital. You can download a movie or you can buy one legally, the media has created this revolution and this is going to continue in many different ways," Makhni, an authority on the subject, told IANS.

"It will change a lot of equations in future. Like if a movie is released Friday, how will it fare in the first and second weeks?" he added.

Makhni, of course, believes cinema halls will never be short of a loyal audience as "movies will always be a large screen experience".

So there will still be the Sunday movie outing for family members. But when they return home, animatedly discussing what they saw, chances are that a gawky 20 something will irritably hit the pause button on her laptop and ask them to hush up so she can resume watching her film, very much in the comfortable confines of her room.

Twenty-two-year-old Rakesh Rawat is one such youth. With a vocabulary that includes streaming videos, bit torrents, flash drives and DVD writers, Rawat has been downloading and watching movies on his laptop for three years.

"I don't like listening to people's comments in a movie hall. There's a certain forced ambience in a theatre that irritates me. If people find a scene funny and I don't, I hate to listen to their sounds of laughter," said Chennai-based Rawat.

"But when I watch a film on my laptop, I can be my own self and not get affected by the artificial environment."

While there are many who can't stop raving about their little weapons of entertainment, film expert Gautam Kaul doesn't quite welcome the trend.

"Traditionally, human society has had characteristics of a gregarious group. Cinema has been a form of sharing experience, a congregational activity. However, after the advent of the electronic age, for the first time the congregational activity has been disappearing," Kaul said.

"You sit in isolation, you experience films but don't share your emotional notes with anybody. Cinema, in this form, is not able to give you any emotional nourishment. This ruins the original gregarious nature of individuals and leads to a change in human character. You become neurotic."

Kaul even goes on to say that pornography will have a larger audience in future if the trend continues.

"If ever cinema is removed from its large assembly of audience, it will be a threat to family life and a loss of culture. Porn films will be having a major audience."

The same emotions are echoed by Ashok Deshpande, 48, a worried father of a tech-savvy teenager.

"My son keeps himself locked in the room and is always watching some or the other movie on his netbook," Mumbai-based Deshpande told IANS on phone.

"I tell him this is no way to watch a movie, it should be watched with the family. But how will he listen unless he removes those stupid wires from his ears?"

But the young are not bothered. They have after all downloaded and watched new movies like "The Social Network" and "Break Ke Baad" long before their actual release!

(Mohita Nagpal can be contacted at [email protected])