My South Indian Quest for ‘The Hobbit 3’

Last year for the release of the second ‘Hobbit’ film, ‘The Desolation of Smaug’. and the year before for the release of the first one,  ‘An Unexpected Journey’, I missed my chance of seeing the new movie on a really big screen because I waited for someone else to organize some collective transport in order to go see it in the only place not too far from us who live in Auroville : Chennai, the big city called ‘Madras’ in the old days. I waited and waited… and nothing happened!…

This time around, for the release this year of the last film of this new Trilogy by Peter Jackson happening in Tolkien’s ‘Middle-earth’ like the previous one, ‘The Lord of the Rings’, I am not taking any chances any more: to make sure that I will definitely see ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’, I’ll take care of everything myself!!!

So, last Tuesday, I wrote out my announcement:

“I am organizing a taxi to go this Friday 19/Saturday 20/Sunday 21 to Chennai see the third and last film, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”. It has very good reviews, and all the theatres in Chennai showing it are already fully booked, starting tomorrow Wednesday, for the first two days. We have a chance to get some seats after that (the taxi driver can buy the tickets in advance). It would be for the midday show, so departure 9 am, return 3 pm just after the show. If you want to come, please contact me as soon as possible.”

What this announcement from me in our Auroville little weekly newsletter didn’t mention, because everybody knows it, is that from here (near Pondicherry) it’s a three hour drive going to Chennai; and of course the same again on the way back… no flying Eagles to carry you!!!

On the very Tuesday morning I sent my email to the publishing office, someone almost immediately phoned me, even before the announcement got printed: that person had seen it at the newsletter’s office, and happened to be the mother of two teenagers very keen to come along. So they became the first two on my list!
That was  a good start, I felt. But realizing the newsletter would come out only on Friday, and the distribution in some places could be as late as Saturday night, I asked a friend to also post my announcement online, on our internal Auroville communication site.
And I myself started emailing a few Aurovilians here and there whom I knew since long were definitely fans.
After half a dozen of them had answered me, one way or the other, and for whatever reason, “No thanks, I cannot come”, a suspicion grew in me that perhaps not so many people would be interested enough in seeing that film on the really BIG screen it was meant for, to go all the way to Chennai for that joy. It might well be that only I had such a passion for these films, that I would do such a crazy thing – including the taxi fare, that was actually way beyond my means if ever I had finally to go alone.
In the meantime, it appeared that the online booking of the tickets for the Sunday as I had finally asked, wasn’t working properly; as for taxi drivers buying the tickets in advance, that seemed not to be happening either, because… nobody knew anymore in which theatres the movie was still shown, most of them having gone on since then with their other planned movies!!!
By Thursday night, it became obvious the only chance there still was to find a place where the film was still running, was to forget about Saturday and Sunday, and go to Chennai the very next morning, Friday 19th, and just find out directly there – with the risk of going for nothing if it was already all over everywhere.
I tried frantically to contact the mother of the two teenagers, but her phone numbers in our internal phone book weren’t the correct ones any more. On Friday morning itself, from 8 am on I tried again and again to contact her, this time through other people. Nothing doing.
So when the taxi I had booked for 9 am arrived, I was indeed alone, the only passenger going for this journey “There and Back again”.
Because of heavy traffic inside Chennai (a very large city) we arrived late for the midday show in the ‘City Centre’ multiplex; and anyway the one and only showing for ‘The Hobbit’ would be, it turned out, at 10 pm in the night!!!
Impossible for me to stay that late.
The driver then took me to yet another huge mall just like the ones I remembered from France itself, splendidly decorated and lit because of Christmas etc. In the multiplex there, the unique showing for The Hobbit’, we found out, would be at… 4pm.
Sigh of relief. This was more manageable.
We happily took our tickets – the driver seemed to be interested in seeing that film, so I invited him to join.
Then he went for his favorite local style lunch elsewhere, while I stayed put in the safety of that huge mall, for a more French-like fare: if this was to be a once-in-ten-year outing, the lunch too could be part of it!…

After that I spent a full hour down one level, in the bookshop… trying to find some illustrated little book presenting ‘The Hobbit’ or ‘The Lord of the Rings’, but with pictures from the Peter Jackson movies instead of the boring kind of usual colored drawings: it had dawned on me that without any introduction at all to this last movie of the ‘Hobbit’ Trilogy, my poor driver would not understand a thing in the entire movie: a simple local man like him, his mother-tongue Tamil with enough English understanding but without the slightest idea otherwise of what Middle-earth could be, and the various odd species inhabiting it besides the normal Humans, he wouldn’t be able to make any sense of what would be going on full blast in this last film, without even the help of any prologue!!!
When we met again at 3.30 pm, on a piece of paper I made for him my own sketches of a map, and wrote down the names of the various main species and their Rulers, and I described the basic way of being of each species; already for him to imagine that they all lived here on Earth very long ago, when we the ‘normal’ human beings weren’t the only ones around, was quite a remarkable feat. Add to that my brief summary of the previous events in this story… He did seem to follow me a little, poor fellow…
Then it was time to go into the multiplex!
Only when upon entering we were both given a pair of strange ‘sunglasses’, did I realize I was going to see ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’… in 3D!!!
Gulp… First time in my life I would see a film in 3D (I have lived in Auroville since 1972). Would that be okay for me?…
Already with my bad eyesight and bad hearing, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to see or hear anything at all from afar, but a blur of moving colors on that huge screen, and confused sounds to try to understand. My 3D glasses in my hand, I had an instant of sheer panic: with the addition now of this above my own glasses, would I see anything at all??? It would be so horrible to have paid all this taxi fare and come all the way on my own, only to be unable to see or hear anything of that movie!!!

But that didn’t happen. On the contrary, I saw and heard everything perfectly well and even enjoyed the 3D effects to my heart’s content!
It was only my throat that nearly went into spasms, with all the moments of tension and fear and emotional upheavals, sweet or terrible, succeeding each other nonstop.
The rest of the audience (quite packed actually), all well educated and well-to-do young Indians, most of them couples, didn’t express itself noisily, so even my cries of anguish – or sobs during the entire ending – had to be kept on the ‘mute’ mode as well: as the only Westerner there, I felt I had really to behave!…
But I remained resolutely seated throughout the End Credits and Billy’s beautiful song over those beautiful drawings by Alan Lee. I was the last person to leave – still in tears – at 7pm.
My driver told me he had liked that movie very much, he found it quite a beautiful story.
By 10 pm I arrived back home, exhausted but tremendously happy:
I have done it! I have seen it!!! I have seen ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’!!!
And I fell on my bed and slept at last.

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