By Kathirasenar

Yesterday, I visited one of my neighbours. We talked about the usual thngs – the weather, our children, and some politics, especially the latest happenings in the country.

When his wife brought some tea, the first thing she asked me was: “Did you watch any Deepavali movies?”

Shaking my head, I said I seldom went to the movies during Deepavali. My neighbour said with a laugh that he had no choice but to watch a movie one or two days after Deepavali every year or else his wife would not leave him in peace.

His wife interjected with: “Deepavali is not complete without going to watch a movie, Annae (brother). You must end Deepavali in the cinema hall.” We all had a hearty laugh.

As I walked home, I reflected on what his wife had said. I know of many Indians who think like her. I suppose it is special for women as they want to unwind after a hectic week or so preparing for Deepavali and entertaining guests on Deepavali day itself.

It is no joke preparing for Deepavali: There is so much house work to be done and most of it is done by the womenfolk. Those with domestic workers are fortunate but those without have to clean and decorate the house, prepare Deepavali goodies, buy new clothes and do a host of other things.

On Deepavali day, the women hardly have any rest. In my house, for instance, my wife serves thosai hot to all our guests, so she keeps moving from the kitchen to the dining table. She says thosai must be eaten when hot to enjoy the flavour and I agree with her. Then she has to prepare the drinks too, and she is on her feet most of the day.

So I suppose women are justified in wanting to watch a movie or two after Deepavali.

In the sixties and seventies, it was even more special for women as this was one of the few occasions they could go out. Indian women then were not as free to move about as they are today.

For one thing, most of them were not working in offices or elsewhere. If they were married, they were housewives; if not, they stayed at home to help their mothers or sisters cook and take care of the household. Young girls were not allowed to go out, especially at night, even with their friends who were girls.

However, Deepavali celebrations opened up these restrictions: they could visit friends and neighbours and even go to the movies. For many, going to the movies was a good excuse to get out of the house and spend some time together.

Often, however, young girls would still need to be chaperoned. If they were not with their family members, they would be with an older woman.

I remember some of the young girls in my neighbourhood coming to ask my mother to take them to the movies as their parents would not allow them to go otherwise. My mother, who was the only married woman among them, would oblige, and about five or six teenagers and unmarried young women would come to my house on the appointed day and they would all walk to the bus stop before taking a bus into town.

This happened for several years until the girls got married one by one.

For many in the fifties and sixties, Deepavali was about the only time they could go out and enjoy themselves, including watch a movie or two. So, it was a special event.

In fact, Deepavali movies were well promoted and leaflets would sometimes be distributed by the cinema theatre operators to houses or their staff would announce the movie while moving in vans from place to place.

Also, there were no shopping complexes and entertainment outlets as exist now and the theatre was about the only entertainment available then.

Today, of course, there are so many entertainment options available and you need not go to the theatre to watch a movie; you can watch it on TV and laptops and even smartphones.

But watching a movie in the theatre with family or friends is an experience - a different, fun experience altogether - and that is why it is still popular.

Kathirasenar is a veteran editor and columnist with an interest in culture.

Photo credit: Home of the Arts,