Rex cinema incident and the cultural context

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An eye-witness has given an account of  what happened at the Rex Cinema in Selegie Road last night which throws into question the role of  the Police in such incidents. Tensions built up when the operator had to cancel the world premiere of a Tamil movie, Veeram, starring superstar Ajith Kumar. Most of the moviegoers were foreign workers, some of  whom claimed they had queued for tickets for more than six hours. The Straits Times reported that 10 police officers were called in when members of the crowd began shouting at cinema staff, but the incident was resolved peacefully.

Blogger and National Solidarity Party member Ravi Philemenon was present at the scene, and wrote an eyewitness account on his Facebook wall. “At no time were the moviegoers rowdy,” he insisted. “They were very reasonable.” Philemenon also called out the behaviour of the police. “The police used words like “dei!, dei! move out! move out!” .” While ‘dei’ is a term of endearment in Tamil if used between friends, it is considered rude if used by strangers.

Mr Philemenon added that the police were “talking loudly” to the moviegoers, including himself, until he identified himself as a Singaporean. Even then, Philemenon said, the officer “still tried to get his point across without wanting to listen to me” until Philemenon offered to explain the situation and interpret for the police. The situation was without further tension.

The cultural context is very crucial when it comes to dealing with foreign workers. Take the Rex Cinema incident, for example. If the police had understood the fact for Indian movie fans, especially those from Tamil Nadu, watching a film of  their favourite star during the first show and on the first day is like an honour. Back home, they hero worshop their favourite stars. They bring some of  these habits here.

With that context in mind, the police could have understood the cinema goers’ anxiety a little more. . And the situation could have been handled better.