Saturday, July 16, 2005

Cinefan Day 1: a Siri Fort rant

After writing yesterday’s post, I wondered if I should have avoided that last comment about Siri Fort Auditorium. Well, those conscience pangs have been dispelled now. Will try to keep the ranting short but here’s a rough list of the things that happened to me and my friend Shougat at Cinefan today:

- Reached the venue to discover that, predictably, they were disallowing people from carrying cellphones into the auditorium (this happens practically every time there’s a big event on at Siri Fort, though the security is never as strict as it appears to be when they’re haranguing you; there are always a few people who somehow do manage to smuggle their phones in, and these phones invariably ring very loudly while the event is on). We were tersely, and cryptically, told that the “last few bomb incidents have been caused by cellphones”.

- Now this cellphone rule is a severe inconvenience for people who don’t have their own vehicles to leave the things in, and who don’t have the option of leaving the phones at home (because they have to go straight to office after the screening, or because they are coming to the screening straight from office). No arrangement is made for phones to be left with security or at a reception (not that that would be a very practical arrangement when there are thousands of people in attendance); in fact the organisers are downright rude and spare no opportunity to wash their hands of all responsibility.

- Even those who have vehicles are given no assurance. After leaving my phone in my car, I went up to one of the many guards posted in the car park, and asked if someone would be keeping watch over the cars at all times. The guy went on the defensive immediately. “Haan, guards yahan honge toh, par aapka personal samaan aapka hi responsibility hai.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, apparently my question had convinced him I was an Al-Qaida recruitee myself: he walked purposefully to my car, circled it a few times, stuck numerous mirrors under it, looked suspiciously at the two Harry Potters lying in the backseat (which Shougat and I had picked up from the Penguin office en route to the fest) and then waved us on patronisingly.

- Anyway, we made it inside, fuming, and finally reached the auditorium entrance, where we met the Dirty Harry of the Delhi police squad. “Arre, body search theek se karo,” this rogue screamed while his subordinate molested my friend, “trouser ko full upar kar ke dekho. Joote kholo.” He then objected – you have to believe this – to our carrying a pen into the auditorium. “Isse kya karoge? Yahan phillum dekhne aaye ho ya paath likhne?” he asked with a leer, as we attempted to tell him we were journos and would die if left alone for a few hours without a writing instrument in our possession.

I’ve been attending Cinefan for five years now – four of those as a journalist – and each time there have been problems of this sort when it comes to the screenings held at Siri Fort. I’m familiar by now with most of the organisers and the promotions people, and have the option of calling one of them up if things get too troublesome; I have a press card to flash too; but despite these advantages I still find the whole thing so bureaucratic, cumbersome, even hostile, that it sometimes makes sense just to stay away. I imagine it’s much worse for regular movie-lovers who don’t have any sort of clout. Given all this, it’s laughable when one hears all the tut-tutting about how enough people don’t come for these festivals.


  1. SO wait? They would rather confiscate all cellphones which may be used to detonate a bomb in the complex rather than sweeping the whole place first for said bombs which if found would be immediately removed and no one would be allowed to enter for days and said cellphones would be useless even if they were carried inside the theaters?
    I see how it is.
    Btw. this whole cellphone being used to detonate a bomb thing is beyond the technical ability of most people with advanced degrees in telecommunication, let alone a terrorist organization. The only time a cellphone have been used is when there were strips of C4 inside the cellphone which were used to kill a PLO leader by the Israeli Mossad in the early 90s. They replaced his cell surreptitiously and when he picked it up: "can you hear me now?".
    If it was so easy to use cellphones to detonate a bomb (only in movies) why did the london bombers have to carry such a large package on their backs instead of detonating it from a safe distance?....maybe because it is near impossible and would involve more than a 90% failure rate thats why.
    Were the police gender separated during searches?

  2. "Regular movie-lover" here.
    I arrived five minutes early for Shouf Shouf Habibi!. By auto. The woman at the gate did not frisk me as I walked in, so I still had my cellphone. In my hand, quite openly. Then she called me back, accused me of having a friend pass it through the other gate, and yelled at me. Then shooed me back out.
    I took another auto to one of my dad's friends' clinic, and left my phone with him. Came back, was frisked properly this time (phew, last time I was at Sirifort the woman just planted her hands on my breasts and squeezed), and missed a few minutes of the movie. As the door to the building, the guard was explaining to some people that they couldn't take that bottle of bisleri in, even though it had been purchased at the venue itself. Because they had taken it out and might have put something in it.
    Of course, during the screening I heard the familiar beep of a nokia phone receiving a message. Quite a few times.

    I miss having the Habitat centre as a venue.:(

  3. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why they won't let us in with our cellphones. I went to see the Japanese film last night --and needless to say was turned away because of my phone. And since I happened to be on call at work in case of "breaking news" I did not even have the option of leaving my phone anywhere. I'm so bummed about it!

  4. I had a bag and wouldn't be allowed inside. I was so very pisssed off!

  5. Are you reviewing Potter 6? But I think you told me once you haven't read the first five? Or have you by now?

  6. I have experienced this lack of compassion, empathy and common sense from the organisors notably while watching cricket matches. On one occation at Chennai in the last Ind Aus test match match the powers decided that cloth bags shouldn't be allowed but polyethene bags are ok, i was carrying a cloth bag with a pair of binoculars, a book and a towel. I was asked to remove them all from the bag and take them along with me and leave the empty bag outside.

  7. Anangbhai said it. A cellphone can be used by terrorist in two ways: hiding a bomb inside the phone and triggering a bomb by calling that bomb equipped with a cellhone kind of chip.
    One. If you hide a bomb inside the bomb, you become a suicide bomber, but a useless one. You kill yourself, and injure a couple of others. Stupid idea.
    Two: Triggering a bomb. In this case the bomb has to be already planted there. And if it's planted there, you can call from Sri Lanka and trigger it. You don't need to take the phone near the bomb. It's a phone not a remote control.

    Cellphones were thought to be a threat in many countries, because security guys didn't know much about it initially. Now, most countries have accepted that these phones are not much use to bin Laden types. And people even in Israel aren't afraid of cellphones.

    Tell that to the thulla at Siri Fort?
    Ke hai... mobaaiiille allow nahin hai... chhore... zaaa ghar rakh ke aa.

  8. Okay, I'd prefer that cell phones not be allowed. Yesterday, while watching the 'House of Sands and Fog', someone was on the cell phone. My friends didn't hear him, but perhaps my ears are sensitive to disturbance: I heard the bugger dial someone, and talk for almost 20 minutes. Very irritating.

    Loved the movie.