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Revenge of Sathyam

Monday, 23rd May 2005

Vibhu is a kind and gentle man, not to mention, a gentleman. Now I know that he is incapable of malice. How else would he, after three interruptions in a theatre that took almost 50% more money from you than the already through-the-roof ticket prices to deliver you the Real Digital eXperience, give them such a charitable write up in his blog?

I like Sathyam Cinemas. In fact, it is the only theatre complex in Chennai Vidya and I have patronised in a long time. They have had their low points, but the experience there has been quite good so far. And then came Revenge of the Sith, and all that changed.

We paid a hundred bucks for seventy buck tickets – not bought “in black,” but in a block of four, four days before the show. The difference in price, we were told, was because we would be watching a digital movie, where we would have the Real Digital eXperience brought to us by the latest DLP (Digital Light Processing – aren’t these acronyms cool!) technology Sathyam had had installed.

As the movie progressed, we were aware of the perfect picture and the crystal clear sound. The difference was perceptible. And we thought our extra money had not been wasted. Until the first unscheduled break. Suddenly, there was no sound and no picture. We waited patiently – which means we did not scream or hoot or whistle or stuff our shirts into the opening through which the projection was done. A couple of minutes later, the movie continued, and we were once again taken into the movie. Sometime later, it happened again, and very quickly, sound and picture returned. We thought no more of it. The third time it happened, we found out it was the interval, though it appeared abruptly as the Wookies were charging the enemy at Master Yoda’s command. The interval was inordinately long, and it looked as though the technicians were having trouble persuading the digital magic to resume.

After some time, the movie did resume, and we forgot our irritation at the interruptions. Master Mace Windhu had just bested Chancellor Palpatine (He hadn’t proclaimed himself Emperor yet, Vibhu!), and had him at light-sabre point, when Palpatine sent out those cool electric-blue rays at him. As they struggled, Anakin stood by, unsure of what to do. Master Windhu shouted, “He is the traitor…” and the screen went blank. We turned as one, echoing Master Windhu’s words, towards the projection room.

For a full 25 minutes we waited. We were told by a man wearing a t-shirt with the picture of a sperm on it that there was some trouble with the projection equipment, that the UPS had conked off, and that the machine had to be restarted, which would take 20 minutes. We sat waiting for the movie to come back. A few people who screamed at guy-in-t-shirt-with-picture-of-sperm got their cash back and left.

Finally, the movie came back, and we watched it to the bitter end.

What hurt was not that Sathyam had been wrong-footed by its power backup system, or that they did not have the necessary redundant backups. It was their lack of courtesy in informing us of what happened. We had to go looking for someone to tell us, and when we found the guy, he was so casual and offhand about it. If he had just stepped into the theatre and announced that a power failure had happened and that it would take 20 minutes to get up and running, we probably would have grumbled, but not felt bad. But what happened, and the way Sathyam handled it, left us with a bad taste in the mouth.

I will go back to Sathyam, but it is only because there is nowhere else to go.

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