Kids accompanying parents to movies not meant for their age is not uncommon in Chennai. Indeed, it’s a disturbing trend

The whole cinema hall held its collective breath. The hot Ryan Gosling was pulled into a passionate kiss by his beautiful co-star Emma Stone. And just when everybody's mind was a-whir with the big question — will they, won't they? — a kid started bawling. Amidst all the ‘tsk-tsk' and rubber-necking to spot the culprit, we couldn't help but wonder — what was a toddler doing inside the cinema, watching the late night, A-rated “Crazy Stupid Love”?

Unfortunately, it's a common sight — small children accompanying their parents watching movies totally inappropriate for their age. Hindi, English, Tamil, it does not matter; the content and censor rating (mostly) never seems to; but, any day, any show, you're very likely to find a fair sprinkling of toddlers and kids among the audience. A fortnight ago, a restless boy (about 3 years old) sat next to us during a late night show of an unexpectedly violent Tamil movie. I asked his mother, during the interval, why she had brought him along. “He always comes with us; he likes it. Normally, he sleeps,” she said, “but today he's got high fever, poor thing.” Well, there wasn't much to be said there, so we decided to take the discussion outside the cinema hall.

Asking around why kids show up in cinemas, the most common excuse we heard — after ‘but how can we leave them at home, alone?' of course — was that kids won't really understand what's happening onscreen, and even if they do, they will not remember any of it for long.

Thankfully, not every parent buys it. Sangeetha, mum of a teenaged boy says she and her husband have accepted their lot, and only watch U-rated and PG-13 movies. ‘We end up with a lot of animated stuff, but we're not complaining, because some popular Tamil movies we watched had some disturbing parts too. In fact, I am surprised they managed to get a U Certificate'.

T.S.S. Ganesan, father of an 8-year-old girl says luckily, his daughter is not into movies. “Earlier, they used to be strict. When I was in Standard 8 or 9, I remember I was not allowed inside the cinema to watch a Tamil movie. Now, with so many sources to give them ‘ideas', why take them to movies also? Besides, whether they understand what's happening or not, it will make others uncomfortable.”

“I'm not sure if this system isn't purely driven by money,” says Srividya, mum of two kids. “I've seen boys and girls who're not quite 18 queuing up for A-rated movies (especially the English movies translated into Tamil that play in small, local cinemas), and they seem to walk right in. Similarly, if they don't allow small children into the cinemas, maybe the family audience won't fill the seats?” But really kids, in a movie that holds no interest for them, “are a nuisance and ruin others' cinema viewing experience,” says Preeti, mum of an 8-month-old baby girl. When cinema is still viewed as an escape, a popcorn-and-soda fuelled 3-hour break from monotony, it seems a shame that fidgety kids can make enough noise to drown out dialogues and spoil somebody else's chance of a nice evening out. “It also makes me uncomfortable, having them around, when there's a raunchy song playing onscreen,” adds Srividya.

“The onus might be on the cinema to enforce an age limit, but I think parents should use their discretion too,” says Preeti. Because, if you reason that kids are “too young to understand or remember anything” and can watch people hacking each other or making out on screen, does it mean they can try it at home or be privy to real-life bedroom scenes as well? Where do you draw the line? Think about it, won't you, please?

What do cinema-owners think of this trend?

When contacted on telephone, Swaroop Reddy of Sathyam Cinemas said they follow the norms for A-rated movies and admit people aged 18 and above. And this, he says, is followed by all multiplexes today. For parents who would like to watch a certain movie, but are not comfortable leaving behind their children at home, Sathyam Cinemas, he said, offers a service called ‘Magic Hat' — a transit play lounge for kids. Parents can drop the kids off here, where they are entertained, and enjoy the movie (which might not be appropriate for the children) and pick them up at the end. Also, there is usually a family-centric movie playing in the complex that is suitable for family viewing.

If you think it's a bother to wait for kids to grow up before you get to watch movies…

* Opt for cinema halls with child-care/ entertainment facilities.

* If you do not have family around to help with after-hour childcare, ask friends with children to babysit your brood. Return the favour when they want to catch a flick.

* Rent DVDs, snuggle up under a quilt, and enjoy a good movie in the comfort of your home. After you've tucked your kid(s) into bed, that is.

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012