I think the first film I enjoyed watching in the theatre was My Dear Kuttichathan. I was a kid and was enamoured with the 3D glasses back then. Besides that, one of my favourite films that I had watched in the theatre was appa’s Cheran Pandiyan. We went out as a family to Maharaja Theatre, in north Madras. It was a huge theatre with 900-plus seating capacity. During my school days, I bunked classes for the first time to watch Kizhakku Cheemayile; I was in Class 9 then. We went to Agasthya Theatre, but they had tickets only for the front row. That was the first time I was watching a film from the front row. The screen was so huge and we had to tilt our head to one side when one actor was mouthing a dialogue and tilt our head to the other side to follow the other person’s lines. But sitting in the front row with audiences was a different experience. It was then that I realised how much love audiences have for cinema. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I got into this field. I remember watching movies at an open ground in my hometown near Thanjavur during festivals. We used to take our mats, spread them on the ground and enjoy the film. Right outside, we used to have other games and stuff. So, that was a different, fun experience as well.
While I was in college, we used to go to several theatres, like Devi, Sathyam and Woodlands. I used to catch all Rajini sir’s films on the first day, first show. I was a big fan of Vijayakant sir as well and watched his Captain Prabhakaran, Pulan Visaranai and Chinna Gounder. We had a preview theatre called Good Luck (now, Four Frames). I remember watching films like Guna, Thalapathy and Agni Natchathiram a day before their release. I used to sit in the projector room and see how the operator worked it. It was exciting to watch it from up close. And since all the stars are close to appa, we used to watch their films with them.
Theatres take you to a different world, where you forget who you are. There is a reason why they call the experience ‘larger than life’. You can hear people laugh, cry, make fun and point out flaws, loudly. Yes, it is great to watch world content on OTT and TV, but you don’t really sit still for those two hours. But with theatres, it is different. When my film releases, I do theatre rounds to gather reactions from people. In fact, theatres helped me grow as an actor. Technological advancements will always be there, but nothing can shake theatres.