Wednesday 12 June 2013

The interval is history; long live its memory!

A most real & vile form of villian exists in our cinema.
We get fooled by its charms every time we reach out for the samosas and popcorn.
It is powerful because it kills suddenly & then buries the movie experience
It’s called the “Intermission"

In early films, the intermission served a practical purpose: it was needed to facilitate the changing of reels.  Early black-and-white silent features were shown in acts, with an intermission between each reel change.

Subsequently, technology has seen leapfrog improvements, and as movies became progressively longer, the fallacies – and redundancy- of the ‘intermission’ process got exposed.

“Do the right thing”, said Hollywood and World Cinema. They’ve seen to it that the intermission got phased out:

Partly, because advances in projector technology which make reel switches either unnoticeable or non-existent (such as digital projection); and

Primarily, to ensure that the makers of a film get to present it to the audiencetrue to its spirit and in the manner it was envisioned, without an iota of compromise in the narrative of the screenplay to accommodate convulated commercial interests.

In fact, the last major international mainstream film to feature one was 1982's ‘Gandhi’.

Three decadeslater, the concept of intermission survives resiliently in India.Every film made in India is obliged to incorporate an interval, regardless of the narrative’s demands.

To make a movie divided into two halves means to conceptualize it so.  It’s a genetic mutation of sorts of the filmmaker’s vision. All in the name of enhancing the viewer experience by selling concessions at half-time.   Psychologically, intervals cause audiences to return to reality, and are a period during which they can engage critical faculties that they have suspended during the performance itself. But sadly indeed – the same viewers are deprived of the 100% experience that has been designed for their hard-earned buck.

By ridding ourselves of this nuisance, we could easily shave off 8 to 10 minutes of valuable screenplay time, which ironically got padded on to the movie by means of pre-interval buildup and post-interval recap. The narrative gets to flow tighter, engaging the viewer and engancing the overall experience. And everyone walks home (or to the bank) happy, including the multiplex operators – all said and done, the corn will pop just as furiously and the appetite for samosas will rage just as strong. Or, they might sell fewer popcorn, but offset it by a luctarive mix of increased ticket sales through more shows and a global outreach

The biggest windfall awaits patiently. Once our standards get synched with international formats, we gain wider acceptance in ever-growing markets the world over and a leap towards closing the gap for quality, viewable Indian content. After all, we do have so much to share!

Such an easy fix really..  Yet, its baffling how no one’s talking about the elephant in the room.

Abhishek 'Gattu' Kapoor is the National award winning Bollywood filmmaker of Rock On and Kai Po Che fame.

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