Thursday, August 22, 2013

Movie watching is now entertainment + experience

No more standing in queues... no more buying ticket in "black" ... no more paying exorbitant money to buy tickets... This is one of the biggest positive changes that I noticed in India, after my return from USA.

You can book your ticket online comfortably from your home and watch a new movie on the first day of the release. Thanks to the growing number of multiplexes in Chennai. The movie watching experience is now very pleasant when compared to what it used to be, a decade ago.

When I started my IT career, my friends & I used to go to movies almost every weekend. I still remember the days when we used to pay Rs.200 for a Rs.30 ticket - when we buy it in "black". The cost of a ticket in the "black" market becomes exorbitant when you want to watch a brand new movie. In fact, we were once cheated by a guy who was selling tickets in the black market - he sold the previous show's ticket to us. In a hurry, we missed to see the show timings and went inside the theater. We were shocked to see that our seats were already occupied. That is when we realized that we were cheated. More than the money that we lost, we were disappointed because we weren't able to watch that movie :)

Today, the maximum amount that you'll have to pay for a ticket is just Rs.120 in Chennai. If you are booking it online, there is a service tax of Rs.20. Of course, the multiplexes charge you an arm and a leg for Pepsi & Popcorn. I believe that is where they make the money. You can get all kinds of snacks today at the theater - nachos, burgers, cookies, icecream etc., in addition to the traditional Popcorn + soda. 

Any new movie is shown in almost all the theaters in the city and that too in multiple screens and multiple shows. If you go to a multiplex, you'll notice that the movie is run in at least 3 or 4 screens simultaneously during the opening week of the new movie. (Also read: PVR Cinemas in Skywalk - World Class)

Another interesting aspect of online booking is, you don't have to stand in queues. Those days, I hate to stand in long queues in many theaters - most of the times, the ticketing counters are just cages where they arrest people for long hours. The sultry environment, the smell from fellow queue mates... Oh! my God... our country has definitely changed for the good in the last several years. Many of the theatres have a ticket booking website of their own or they've partnered with services such as It allows you to book tickets online for mom & pop theatres also.  

We watch movies only in theaters these days because of the "experience". It is very hard for all of us to be at home continuously for 3 hours. We get interrupted by our household chores or by guests. Theaters provide an environment for us to relax, unwind and watch movies, peacefully. Moreover, my daughter enjoys eating popcorn and icecream during the break. In fact, she comes to theatre only to have snacks and not for watching movie :)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Talking on mobiles when driving (even with a handsfree) is illegal in India

Last Friday, I was driving to work in the morning. I was busy talking to a friend over the phone with my
hands free connected. I was stopped by a traffic police man near Thoraipakkam signal. He asked me to pull over and lower my window. He asked, "Are you talking to somebody?" I didn't want to lie and told him "Yes!... But, I'm talking with my hands free connected".

The police man smiled and said "Sir! Talking over the phone when driving ... with or without hands free is banned in India. Don't you know that?". I was shocked. I said "Sir ! I didn't know this". He asked me to get down and give my driving license. He said Rs.1,100 will be the fine for talking when driving. "Oh! My God.. that is a hefty amount". I asked him, "Sir! Are you sure it is Rs.1,100?". He nodded "Yes!". I didn't want to beg him to lower the fine. The Gandhian in me was not interested to bribe him. I said, "OK! I'll pay the fine". I thought, "Anyways the money goes to the government. So, I'm OK". The policeman punched in the vehicle and license details in the hand-held device and gave me a receipt. I paid him the money, got into the car and started my vehicle. 

Somehow, my mind became restless. In fact, I was more focused on the traffic when I was talking over the phone and driving. However, my thoughts were running all over because of the hefty fine amount that I paid. "Why me?!" was the question that was going on in my mind. I have seen a number of two wheeler riders talking when driving... that too without a hands free device. Why haven't they been caught? What if there is a co-passenger sitting beside me and he is talking with me constantly? Is that illegal too? What is the difference between talking with a hands-free and talking to a co-passenger in the car? In fact, the latter is more dangerous because you'll have to look at the co-passenger once in a while when talking.

I can completely understand the rationale behind asking people "not to talk on phones, when driving". However, having paid Rs.1,100 as the fine amount, I couldn't convince myself without finding answer for the questions that were popping in my mind. I reached office and got settled in my desk. The first thing that I did was to google to find out "how much is the fine for talking when driving in India". I confirmed that the policeman can charge up to Rs.1000 as fine for talking when driving. I also learned that "playing music in the car" is also illegal. The fine amount for that is Rs. 100 :)

If the traffic policeman start to enforce the rules strictly, Tamilnadu Government can make a lot of money from drivers than by selling alcohol in TASMAC bars. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Shared shuttle/van services in Chennai - hard to find!

I recently moved to a new job and my office is in Thoraipakkam, now. For the last 2 weeks, I have been desperately looking at various commute options to work. Right now, I'm driving my own car and I end up spending approximately 2 hours on the road everyday. The following are some options that I'm exploring:

Also read: Self-adjusting traffic - a miracle on Indian Roads

1) Employing a driver - Costs approximately Rs.10,000 a month. However, the driver wouldn't have anything to do during the day time and he would just idle around in the car park. Moreover, I don't want him to sleep in my car or switch-on the A/C (i.e., engine) when the car is not in motion. I'm afraid of the problems that may come with the driver :)

2) Renting a driver - Renting a driver to and fro also costs approximately the same money. There are a number of "call a driver" services in Chennai. They charge approximately Rs.250 for 4 hours. However, I do not want different drivers to drive my car everyday. Moreover, I'm worried about 'how they would handle' my car and the safety aspects (Since, they are typically paid by the hour, I'm afraid that they may drive fast)

3) Using Call Taxi services - This option works out to be very expensive for now. I am thinking of considering this as a last resort.

Also read: Driving on Indian roads - pleasure or pain?

4) Bus Services - There are indeed a few Chennai MTC buses connecting my home with my office. However, getting a seat in the bus is not guaranteed and I can't imagine standing with my laptop and lunch bag for an hour :)

5) Shared shuttle services - A number of IT companies are running their own shuttle services for employees. They subsidize the transportation cost for their employees. I do see a number of private vans/vehicles carrying passengers on the road in the morning and in the evening. However, an Internet search doesn't reveal any of those services. I did get a couple of leads through my contacts, however they are not operating from Choolaimedu/Nelson Manickam Road to Thoraipakkam. I am still on the lookout for Shared Shuttle/Van/Cab Services. If you know of any, keep me informed :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Gemini Circus, Chennai - Not worth it !

"Let us go to Gemini Circus, today". When I said this, my daughter got very excited. I took my family to Gemini Circus in Chennai, today. We were hoping to have a stellar experience. However, I was totally disappointed by the end of the show. In fact, after an hour into the show, my daughter asked "Dad ! When are we going back home?".

(Also read: Drive through McDonalds in Velachery)

Here is the list of things that I liked about Gemini Circus:

  • The tickets for the show was available at various price ranges - Rs.50, Rs.100, Rs.150, and Rs.250 (affordable for everyone).
  • Uniformed men were selling snacks throughout the show - popcorn, biscuits, chocolates, cool drinks, cotton candy etc., 
  • The gymnastic performance was very good. I was quite impressed by circus crew's potential.
  • Time management was perfect - the show began and ended on time (kudos to the folks who did the back stage management)
  • The background music was great
  • Car parking rate was just Rs.40

Here is the list of things that I hated about Gemini Circus:

  • The floor was uneven and filled with rubble and debris
  • They had plastic chairs for everyone, which were put on top of the rubbles (Imagine, how stable the chair would be)
  • There was no proper ventilation. There were a few pedestal fans. However, it was not adequate for 2000+ people
  • Nothing has changed in the last 20+ years. In fact, it has gone for the worse. I remember the days when we used to have wooden railings for people to sit. It was very convenient. I hated those plastic chairs.
  • There was no proper parking space - we have to park the cars over the debris
  • Crowd management was poor - after the show, it took about an hour for us to come out of the venue
  • No lion/tigers/elephants/monkeys were involved during the show (Though I was happy that animals were not disturbed, my daughter was very disappointed :))
  • No online booking (you've to stand in the line to get tickets). They do have a website.
  • No proper signage near the venue. We had to stop in between several times to find the place.

"Will I go to Gemini Circus again in Chennai"? The answer is a STRONG NO. I would rather watch recorded circus programs in my TV.