Recession. Literally, a pulling back a of a surging, forward-moving tide. The moon never considers whether the tide is a good thing or a bad thing, what its ideal point is along the sand. That's a detachment I sometimes envy when considering the other recession. I pore over the newspapers or turn up the calm radio voices, searching for the turning of the tide as fervently as any early navigator with an astrolabe and a chart with the stars delicately limned in the shapes of the gods.
That tide is something I think about a lot as someone who writes about both food and movies. Open your restaurant at the wrong time? Low tide, high and dry in a business that already has a Ginsu-thin margin. Own a movie theater? You grew up on a milk-tale of the Depression making the movies into the entertainment choice of the masses. This is serious business, so please take me seriously when I tell you there is only one way to accurately describe my watchfulness, my sympathetic sorrow, my fearful hope of a rushing return.
My heart is full of the pain of disco.
I've written before about the costs and benefits of sneaking food into movies as they relate to ethical concerns. The best way to support the people who give you a wonderful popcorn-smelling and air conditioned place to watch movies is to buy more tickets. There are, however, conditions under which it's not ideal to go to a movie, even when you want to go. This weekend I found myself with a particularly rattling and aqueous cough. Does the Creature from the Black Lagoon have tuberculosis? Has my father finally succeeded in welding his '74 Ford truck into a submarine? Aren't you glad I wasn't sitting behind you at Julie & Julia on Friday?
This plus the fact that my sneak of the week partner, the illustrious Madam H, had the poor foresight to have her broken arm slung in some transparent net contraption*, meant discretion was the better part of valor and my living room is the better place to watch a movie.
While not subjecting anyone to my unintentional one-woman show interpreting the entire foley track of Roger Corman's Jason and the Argonauts was my main motivation in staying home, there's a certain freedom that comes with the pairing as well. Madame H and I ate food I might normally deem too complicated and/or possibly distracting to other people to sneak into a movie, particularly one likely to be full of people beating the heat. It also gave us the freedom to choose from a vast array of movies to fit our mood rather than attempting to fit our mood to the movies available.
This week's top 5 grossing movies in America and the attitudes they invoke?
1. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (violent, nostalgic, lacking kung-fu grip)
2. Julie & Julia (inspired, hungry)
3. G-Force (amused, suspicious of rodents and the government)
4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (escapist, sanguine [partially])
5. Funny People (I once decided things were never going to work out with a guy I was dating because he'd told me he walked out of Punch Drunk Love because it was not as funny as Billy Madison. Adam Sandler in serious roles ruins things in a fundamental, but ultimately illuminating, way.)
None of that quite matched up with what I needed. I felt deeply that I wanted something that went beyond the usual two hour escape of the fun and fluffy summer movie, something more concerned with transporting me to a realm where ridiculous possibility is only constrained by a loose-slatted cage of coincidence. Also there had to be musical numbers to salve my heart, my aching, coughing heart.
My heart was full of the pain of disco.
*Pro Tip: Using an opaque sling as an extreme sneaking technique, but a
good one to master before attempting the others that rely on your
acting abilities, such as using a wheelchair or motorized scooter for
The best possible cure? Bollywood, and lots of it. when it hit theaters in 2007, Om Shanti Om grossed $45 million, making it the highest-grossing Hindi film ever at the time. That's especially astonishing considering the plot is a very thinly-stretched farce about a reincarnated movie star and only one or two things blow up. One of the biggest contributing factors to the gross was almost certainly that more than 30 top Bollywood stars from the past 30 years appear in the movie as themselves, most of them in a giant musical number.
Imagine if Ocean's Eleven included a long segment of Kentucky Fried Movie and everyone who had ever been more famous than Brad Pitt was in it, dancing and singing. Also, the star has been reincarnated because he read The Secret and asked the Universe to allow him to a) avenge the death of his true love and b) become a giant movie star.
The entire tone of the movie, from the fierce but loving spoof of 70's Bollywood films to current excesses is summed up perfectly by my new favorite song, "Dard-E-Disco." The subtitles tell me this is translated as "the pain of disco," but Madame H, who speaks lovely Hindi, clarified that it's more than that, like a deep sorrow or desolation. Our hero, the reincarnated movie star Om, insisted that this be added to a (broadly spoofed) melodrama where he was playing a man unable to express his pain at his true love marrying another because he is mute...and deaf...and blind...with no hands...
My heart is full of the pain of disco and if you click on that link, yours will be, too.
Gokul is a tiny restaurant, somehow larger on the inside than the outside, that shares a building on Page with a check cashing place and has absolutely the best cheap dinner going. Tiffin, or boxed dinner, costs the same as a regular movie ticket and includes: dal lentil soup; two kinds of rich, buttery curries which almost always includes navratan korma, my favorite; more basmati rice than you will probably be able to eat; an enormous quantity of freshly baked chapati; dessert, which has been different every time I've gone and this time was the sweet raisin-studded semolina pudding, halwa.
Gokul is entirely vegetarian, so it's a great place to try new things without going too far out on the I-think-that-might-be-tongue limb, but if you're craving chicken tikka masala, you're going to be sorely disappointed. I have never finished everything in a tiffin for home box in a 12 hour period. Some of it always ends up as breakfast the next morning, the golden sauce soaked into the remnant rice and bread. Excellent for eating at home and enjoying dinner and a movie for the same cost as a movie alone.
My heart can no longer contain the pain of disco because my belly is full of chapati.
Dara Strickland is a leading expert on sneaking food and drink into the movies. She reports on her exploits for Gut Check (from an undisclosed location) every Monday.