George Town, Malaysia: Notes From a Midnight Movie Screening

THE THEATRE IS A SAUSAGE FEST. Practically nobody’s on a date, which means practically nobody’s a girl, and not a soul looks over 30. V. and I opted to pay a little extra for front-row balcony seats, near five boys in dark clothes devouring beer and chips. We take our seats—surprisingly comfortable—and wait for the show to start.


At midnight, the house lights and V. go out in tandem. (Her zzz’s company the first of what turn out to be three hours of  intense stares, brutal one-liners and one ambiguously sexed psychopathic villain.)

She didn’t miss much, though arguably she’d be slightly less confused than me if she’d seen the first hour. This movie, Aadhi Bhagavan, opens on a group of cops busting a few big-name drug players—only the cops aren’t cops, and the man who pretended to be a lead cop is later revealed to be a con artists subsequently thrown into a spiraling mess of corruption, lies and thievery once the drug dealers decide he’d be better off dead.

The whole thing is forgettable until the (probably?) bisexual villain appears, known as the Mumbai Bhagavan. At one point a heavy metal song kicks in with the refrain, “You don’t fuck with the Bhagavan,” and true to this nobody does.

There’s also a nice little hip-hop number to go along with his theme song, which we all witnessed at 2 a.m.

Mumbai Bhagavan—literally translated to “Mumbai God”—prances onstage in short-clipped hair and eyeliner, and proceeds to kill a lot of people. He has a girlish chortle and covers his lipsticked mouth with the back of his hand, all of which seems strikingly feminine until he talks about how much he loves to fuck his undeniably hot girlfriend, played by Neetu Chandra, who is, indeed, undeniably hot.

Whenever the Mumbai Bhagavan kills someone coldheartedly, every hot-blooded male in the movie theatre jumps up and hollers and screams, howling and making “woot-woot!” noises and shouting, “Aaawwwooooooooo!” All of this is significantly more entertaining than Mr. Bhagavan’s red pleather jacket.

Anyway, in the end most of them die, and a sequel is suggested. The point is that I’ve never slept better than I did that night at 3:15 a.m.

As a small postscript: I didn’t notice until months later, when I remembered to check, but the dude who plays Mumbai Bhagavan and the lead con artist are in fact the same person, for seemingly no reason whatsoever. When I told V. of this revelation, she replied, “Yeah, I saw that when I woke up halfway through. You didn’t notice?”

What can I say? I guess I was just too absorbed in the picture.

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