Gradually, what started as an adventure is now turning into an ordeal

Cine-prem during times of Coronavirus

My father used to say, “Beware of all things Made In China.” As China plunged the universe into an unprecedented crisis, I can see him smiling his I-told-you-so smile.

At the moment, as I look down on a deserted street with two men walking anxiously fearfully masks to unknown destinations and a lady buying vegetables from a hawker who has been stubbornly on the road since early morning, unable to sell enough to buy a meal for himself and his family for the day, I wonder how long civilization would remain locked away waiting for our bin bulaye mehmaan to leave. Goodbye, good riddance. And Atithee Deo Bhav be damned. Chow Mein also be damned.

For me, working out of home is no big deal. I have done it all my life. As my dearest most beloved Goddess Lataji quipped, “Aap toh quarantine hi mein rehte hain hardam. Aapko kya farq padta hai?”

It reminded me of the time when she would travel to London for the summer months every year. Once I asked her where she was and she had retorted, “Aapko kya farq padta hai main kahan hoon?Jahan bhi rahun aapse baat karti rahungi.”

Amen to that.

Jee. Mujhe farq padta hai. Like Rekha, I’ve been quarantined all my life. She only comes out to attend film awards and star weddings. She misses wearing her jewelry and saree.Like Neena Gupta who posed from home wearing her expensive new gold necklace as she felt she may not get a chance to wear it out anytime soon, Rekha can get ready in her finery and pretend she is going out. She can even pose with one of her many Filmfare awards in front of the mirror, pretending she has won a new award.

If that sounds batty then let me tell you, the millions who are on home arrest would need professional psychological help to get out of their acute depression after weeks if not months of isolation. Domestic violence has already escalated. Suicides may follow.

My workload has increased and I want to thank PM Modi for that. Many other entertainment journalists don’t know how to work outside their workplaces, and are at a loss as to how to generate content from home. I know no other way of working.

What I miss are my movie screenings. In that context, Angezi Medium which was screened for me on Wednesday, March 11 would remain a benchmark. Hereafter for all times to come Angrezi Medium would be the film “before” and “after” the virus lockdown. I don’t know when I will be able to return to the movie theatres. It is like living without oxygen. Only another movie addict will know what I mean.

At home, I am watching any number of foreign films. Not Chinese, though. I have decided not to watch any Chinese films , not even Ang Lee because right now I am very Ang Lee, sorry angry.

The OTT digital platform is making the best of the lockdown unleashing a torrent of home viewing stuff for humanity starved of domestic diversion. In Hollywood even the big-screen biggies like The Way Home and Never Really Sometimes Always are being released on the streaming platform. In Bollywood, they will wait. They won’t release big-screen films on OTT. If you are hoping to see Sooryavanshi or 83 pop up at home then I’m afraid you have a long wait ahead.

As days of lockdown have grown into a week, my friends in Mumbai are getting restless. What started off as an adventure and a fashion statement—“I’m learning to cook….It’s so liberating to stay home and not dress up…”etc etc—has become an ordeal.

How much longer? Bollywood is wondering with the rest of the nation. We are still better off than America where folks expect themselves to be locked away for many months. I spoke to star chef Vikas Khanna in New York and he was pretty certain the situation would go on. Iconic talk show hosts like Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel are posting silly videos from home where we see them trying to keep their spirits high by bringing in their kids to participate. But I can see the look of despair in their eyes.

Nothing compared to the man who died while trying to walk home to Agra from Delhi. He was only 39. Little children on my street are facing starvation. How much of Akshay Kumar 25 crores will actually reach them?

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