(Photo from Straits Times)
The Straits Times reported today that “a crowd of more than 100 people, mostly foreign workers, refused to leave Rex Cinemas at Mackenzie Road, after the theatre cancelled the premiere of a movie on Thursday night”
The paper added that a total of three police cars and about seven police officers were at the scene and that the police were called in after some in the crowd apparently began shouting at cinema staff when screening of the Tamil movie, Veeram, was abruptly cancelled after a long six hours wait at the theatre.
A cinema spokesman said the 9pm screening was cancelled as it could not download the film in time.
Community worker, Ravi Philemon so happened to be there at the scene of the event and shares with us his account of what went on at the theatre.
[spacer style=”1″ icon=”none”] Although most of people who had bought the tickets were foreign workers, it would have been better if they are identified as movie-goers, and as hardcore fans of a Tamil superstar Ajith.
The moviegoers did not refuse to go for no reason. They wanted to watch the first show of this movie premiered anywhere in the world. They said that they don’t mind waiting. They only wanted to know when the first show will screened and wanted the theatre manager to say when the movie will premiere.
The theatre manager at first said that the movie is embargoed from release in India and that is why they could not screen it. The moviegoers called out his bluff. If it is embargoed in India, what has that got to do with the screening here? Some of these moviegoers said that they had queued up from 8am today till 6pm, when the ticketing booth was opened to get the tickets for this premiere, and that the theatre manager should be truthful to them.
Even then, the moviegoers did not turn rowdy. This was when the police arrived. The police used words like “dei!, dei! move out! move out!” Which I thought was very disrespectful to the moviegoers.
This was when I approached the police officer talking loudly to the moviegoers. He tried to talk loudly to me (thinking I was a foreign worker). I told the officer that I am a Singaporean.
At this juncture, the police officer lowered his voice, but still tried to get his point across without wanting to listen to me. I insisted to the police officer that I am willing to listen to him, but that he should listen to me first to understand the situation there better before shouting instructions to the moviegoers.
The police officer agreed and I told him what had happened, and why the moviegoers request was reasonable. The police officer agreed and said that he will speak with the theatre manager.
After speaking with the theatre manager, the police officer came back to address the crowd of moviegoers to say that the theatre manager is very kind and would give the moviegoers a chop on their tickets, which will allow them to watch two movies with that one ticket.
The crowd of moviegoers did not understand what the police officer was saying, and the police officers did not understand what the moviegoers were saying in broken English. It was at this juncture that I volunteered to interpret. And the police officers agreed.
I told the moviegoers about the offer of the theatre manager, and the moviegoers said that they did not want to watch two movies, but only wanted to watch the first show of this movie. I explained the wishes of the moviegoers to the police officers.
At no time were the moviegoers rowdy. They were very reasonable. But I can understand how the problem could have escalated if the wishes of the moviegoers were not properly conveyed to the police officers. Even the police officers said that it was a reasonable request and said that they would speak to the theatre managers again.
it was at this juncture that a more senior person in charge of the theatre arrived. He spoke to the police officers and explained why he could not accede to their requests.
When the moviegoers realised that a more senior person had arrived, they gathered around him, but not in a threatening manner. Only to listen to what he has got to say as he spoke in a very soft voice. The police then told the moviegoers not to crowd around, and remember the riot in Little India.
Taking the cue from the police officers, the senior person appealed to the moviegoers in Tamil that they were all Tamilians, and should not let the shame of Tamilians which happened in Little India in December repeat itself.
I felt that there was no necessity for the police officers and the senior person in charge of the theatre to bring up the Little India riot in a matter where the contention was if the moviegoers would be able to watch the premiere of their cinema idol. I felt that things were not going anywhere and left.