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If there’s one pastime that I love to consistently engage in, it’s going to the movies. It’s a well-worn romanticized cliché, but I am consistently enamored by the notion of going to a theatre, watching the lights dim, and then being transported on a filmic journey for two hours. Since returning from India last Wednesday, I’ve already gone to the movies several times. One movie that I recently saw was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, featuring an ensemble all-star cast that included some of the biggest acting luminaries that Britain has to offer.

Moreover, the main attraction for watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was that it was set in India. I’ll be upfront and readily admit that I would not have seen this film if it wasn’t for the fact that I just returned from India only days ago. I wanted to see if any of the experiences that I had first hand knowledge of jived at all with anything that was captured on the screen. Of course, there were going to be a measure of artistic license taken in the film, but I wasn’t going to let that detract from my film going experience.

To briefly set up the overall story of the film, seven disparate British retirees travel to the titular hotel for the “elderly and beautiful,” which is advertised as being a newly restored palatial place to stay, but is actually run down. Despite that, the hotel slowly charms each individual in unexpected ways.

I won’t go into a blow-by-blow recap of the entire film, but, with this post, I do want to cover some of the situations that were encountered by the British foreigners on their sojourn to India. Many of the situations that were experienced by the characters in the film were almost exact mirrors of what we saw during our time in India.

For example, there is an early scene where the seven retirees take an auto rickshaw ride (referred to as tuk tuks in the film for some reason). Their ride is crazy and out of control, much like what we had experienced. Another scene featured Judi Dench attempting to buy a sari for 1000 rupees, with Bill Nighy’s character attempting to negotiate a cheaper price. In the end, Nighy is unsuccessful, and Dench’s character buys the sari for 1000 rupees.

Little touches like those made me enjoy the film all the more. Also, the film really captured the beauty of Jaipur. Even though it was a city that we did not visit while we were in India, the overall travelogue feel that the film took of Jaipur was very successful. In summary, I’m glad I got to watch the film, and I feel that I was able to enjoy it even more on a deeper level fresh off my journey to India.

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And like that, a week has passed; seemingly removing the notion that our stay here in India is a perpetual experience that will last forever; time wise that is. There is no doubt that the collective experiences and memories that we will make over the course of the trip will withstand the one-month time constraint.

And with each passing day, my eyes are continuously opened to new sights and sounds that have expanded my cultural understanding of India. Yesterday (Sunday), all of us took in a showing of “The Avengers,” quite possibly the most dyed in the wool American film currently in theatres at the moment. Heck, one of the heroes in the aforementioned superhero team is named Captain America!

Even though our movie was supposed to begin at 3:45, we actually did not enter the theatre at that exact appointed time. We actually entered around 3:55 or so. This somewhat minor moment serves a cultural demarcation between American and Indian sensibilities. The notion of “Indian Standard Time,” which is an indication of how relaxed in some ways Indian culture can appear to be. The idea of being rigid in regards to starting things on time is somehow not a necessity like it is America.

Once we all ambled into the immense theater (we saw the film on an IMAX screen), we nestled into our plush, comfortable seats, eagerly anticipating being enthralled to what was about to unfold on the massive screen for the next two and a half hours. However, before the movie began, we received even more of a cultural education.

First, we saw a series of advertisements that captured some of the mores and quirks associated with India. For example, we saw a Pepsi ad pitting two crickets against one another in order to obtain the thirst-quenching beverage.

Second, another cultural experience was having the Indian National Anthem play before the film. The video accompanying the anthem was very well produced and showed how much pride Indians have in their country. It was quite illuminating to see a great display of nationalism in a place as mundane as a movie theatre.

Another cultural aberration that separates the U.S. and Indian movie going experience was having an intermission during the film. Of course, there was a time where having intermissions during American films was not unusual. But, as time has worn on, that has fallen out of favor, eschewing that model in order to show the movie completely without a break. I think having a break during the course of a movie in India is somehow an extension of how laid back the culture can be. An afternoon at the movies should last a prolonged amount of time, rather than just existing as an affair that shuffles people in and people out so quickly.

In sum, it’s quite amazing how our experience at the movie theater yesterday served as a cultural barometer. So many different things were on display, showing a different facet of what constitutes Indian mores. Yesterday was proof positive of how going to the movies can serve as an educational experience.

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