A cinematic connection

Examining how movies brought my dad and I closer


Sagnik Nag Chowdhury

A few of the memoirs from the movies my dad and I watched in theaters together. Photo by Sagnik Nag Chowdhury

Sagnik Nag Chowdhury

“We’re going to Interstellar,” my dad announced. Soon after, 6-year-old me was plopped into a red faux-leather seat staring wide-eyed at the expanse of the universe on a gigantic IMAX screen. While this might amaze me now, I can safely say that younger me wasn’t having it. Even though I was reluctant, I walked into the theater with a bucket of popcorn in my hand and an open mind.

But when I was faced with the daunting task of sitting through an almost three-hour film, I couldn’t take it. I kept whispering to my dad: “Is it over yet?” “When does it end?” “What’s going on?” He tried his best to get me to pay attention, but at one point, he decided just to start ignoring me as he immersed himself in the film. I felt bad for bothering him so much, so about halfway through the film I walked out.

The car ride home was mostly silent. I got the feeling that my dad wanted to talk about the movie, only to realize I hadn’t seen half of it.

I wasn’t really keen on movies when I was younger, mainly due to my incredibly short attention span. I used to cycle through Bollywood movies and skip to the songs just to see the bright colors and dancing, or I’d play a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie and skip through the movie until I saw Jack Sparrow swinging from one pirate ship to the next.

A few years later, I packed to go to Kolkata in India with my dad the next day. That night, I headed downstairs to see my dad watching a movie, and on the screen were two men fighting hand-to-hand with pounding music in the background. I was intrigued, so I sat on the sofa to see what was going on. The movie was “Baby,” a Hindi spy thriller. I figured it was worth a try since I didn’t have much else to do, so I continued watching and followed along as the story developed.

What followed in the next hour was one of the most captivating movies I had seen at the time. My dad and I talked back and forth during the movie, commenting on how they managed to pull some of the stunts off or how it was a stupid idea that the main character walked into the villain’s chamber completely unarmed. I would’ve never imagined we would be bonding over a movie called “Baby” at 12:30 am.

Actors Akshay Kumar and Rana Daggubati star alongisde each other in the film Baby. Photo | T-Series

That night was a turning point for me. My dad could tell that I was slowly starting to get into movies, and on that trip to Kolkata, we watched so many movies on my grandpa’s old, 13-inch Panasonic box TV. I went back to all the old movies I skimmed through — from the old “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies to understand why Jack Sparrow was swinging between boats to all the old Bollywood movies to understand why there was a group of people dancing in the town square (I will confess, sometimes I still don’t understand why they were dancing).

Eventually, I realized it was just about spending time together watching movies, but it was about what we could learn about each other through experiencing them together. My dad shared some of his memories, like when we watched the film “Haathi Mere Saathi,” a 1971 Hindi film about a man who befriended four elephants and the journey they went through together, which my dad claimed was the first movie that made him cry.

We made more memories together as well. We laughed for a solid 10 minutes in the car about how when we watched “The Conjuring 2” in theaters, my dad jumped up in his seat at a jumpscare, spilling a good amount of popcorn from the bucket in his hand.

When we went to New York during the summer of 2022, we decided to watch “Bullet Train” at a nearby theater because we had checked out of our hotel but it was too hot to stay outside. Overestimating how much time we had, as soon as the credits started rolling, we ran out of the theater back to the hotel to pick up our luggage, then scrambled to get a taxi to take us to the airport during peak traffic hours. While we were stressed until we reached the gate, we talked about how we both really enjoyed the movie during the ride there, and even our driver discussed the film with us.

Photo by Satyajit Nag Chowdhury

Many of my friends have commented that now I’m almost a movie addict, making funny comments like, “I don’t think he’s free; he’s probably watching a movie right now” and honestly, sometimes they’re right. But what matters to me isn’t just the movies; it’s the connections I make with the people I’m watching them with that make it all the more worthwhile.

Recently, when my dad upgraded to a new TV, I decided to watch “Interstellar” to go back to where my cinematic journey began. I found myself immersed in a world of new planets, and I ended up talking about it with my dad for over an hour. So even though I’ve gotten busier with school and he’s gotten busier with work, I always have something to look forward to on Friday nights, even if I’m not the one picking the movie.