At Zoetrope, film enthusiasts didn’t just watch a movie but also came dressed like the characters in it

The guests strolling into Sandy’s Chocolate Laboratory, Alwarpet, for an evening meal had to make their way through a young crowd wearing loud clothes inspired by the 90s. The lawn had been readied for a themed-movie screening event titled, ‘Zoetrope’.

Organised by San Francisco-based entrepreneur Sharan Reddy and his team, Zoetrope was an attempt to ‘inject life and colour’ into the mundane ritual of ‘movie-watching’. The event was appropriately named after the first-known device that creates an illusion of a moving image by rapid succession of static pictures. A hundred cinephiles signed up for an experience that aimed at blurring the line between fiction and reality.

To achieve this ambitious goal, the organisers sent cryptic clues to the participants about the venue, the clothes that they had to wear and the movie that is going to be screened. The intention was to get the participants involved right from the day they signed up. At first, it seemed like a simple mutation of the ‘blind date’ concept, where the audience pay to watch an undisclosed film. But, Sharan insisted, “Here you do much more than just watch a film that you have no idea about. The audience even had to hunt down the location, guess the film through clues and dress up as characters.” In short, it was like dressing up for cinema on Halloween day.

A definitive hint about what movie was going to be came when the title track 'We are Family’ from Gene Hackman-Robin Williams starrer, The Birdcage, blared from the speakers. And then just before the screening, four drag queens held fort in front of the screen to present a welcome jig just like the opening sequence of the film. With the dust on the ‘section 377’ yet to settle down, the hundred participants saw the selection as a nod in favour of debate. “It (the debate on ‘section 377’) did have an effect (on selection), but the selection was ultimately down to the genre and the period that the film was set in,” said Sharan.

The food that was served during the evening was also picked from the film: the Turkish coffee that Robin Williams drinks was the welcome drink and burger boxes with a chocolate cup cake were distributed at the half way mark. Barring a few, the crowd that brought their pillows and quilts along mostly consisted of young people. Regardless of age, everyone relished the relaxed picnic-like atmosphere.

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