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Purring panther

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on March 30, 2018 Published on March 30, 2018

Muriel and I set off to see the movie Black Panther. It’s a midweek matinee show. When we get to the local multiplex there’s only two other people ahead of us, two guys, at the ticket counter.

The two guys are arguing about which movie to see, but we hear the older man say, “... Black Panther? Isn’t that the one that made a billion-dollars in its opening week?” Yup, that’s the one, says the younger guy, most likely his son. They pay for their tickets and get a giant bucket of popcorn before moving off towards the hall. As they pass us, the older guy says, “You’re too late! They’re all sold out!” We laugh and wave, saying, “Oh too bad – we’ll just have to fight our way in, won’t we!”

Because it’s just that kind of movie: a big-budget action film, with such a feel-good aura that even before we’ve seen it, we’re already covered in mystic-purple fairy dust. Muriel has already seen it but when she offered to see it a second time, I jumped at the chance. These days, I get most of my movie-viewing done on the post-card-sized seat-back screens on board a flight from Here to There. That’s fine for quiet, intense dramas, but totally ridiculous for widescreen films.

We get our tickets and waddle off to Hall#4. There’s no one else in the silent, thickly-carpeted corridors. Not even a ticket checker. When we enter the hall, we see the two guys ahead of us. No one else. We wave and grin. We haven’t bought any popcorn or sodas. They cost almost double the price of our senior-discounted tickets! But of course Muriel has no intention of watching the film snack-free! As soon as the lights go down, she brings out a clandestine packet of cheese-flavoured popcorn that she’s brought from home.

I don’t know anything about the film except that it’s broken box-office records from here to eternity, that it belongs to the Marvel Comics superheroes universe and that it’s the first ever blockbuster with an all-black cast, including such famous names as Forest Whitaker and Lupita Nyong’o. Now that I’ve seen it, I know one more thing about it: it’s really worth seeing. Despite all the high-drama, blistering fight scenes, flying fists and bulging muscles, there was also a sweet, throbbing and — dare I say it? — specifically non-European, black-African heart right in the middle of it.

Was it the presence of the powerful women warriors in their gorgeous costumes? Or the hero T-Challa’s cute-smart sister who designs his fancy weaponry? Or the jokey-corny humour tucked into details of dress and dialogue? The James Bond references? Or the undercurrent of non-violence and pacifism even in the midst of its blood-feud and vengeance story? Or maybe all of the above! It’s good fun. Go see it.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on March 30, 2018
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