The 3D-Degree Torture

Pop Culture

The 3D-Degree Torture

Illustration: Cleon Dsouza

The year 2009 was a great one. Isis was still just the name of an Egyptian goddess, Pahlaj Nihalani was nowhere near the post of censor board chairman, and you could eat a steak anywhere in this country. It was also the year that made us think we were on the brink of an exciting new era of 3D entertainment, led by the visionary James Cameron and his opus, Avatar.

For the first time ever, giving up on a week’s groceries for multiplex tickets seemed worth it. I was among the droves of devotees who would make the pilgrimage to the nearest 3D movie hall to take in what we thought was mankind’s greatest technological achievement. Yes, the moon landing was cool, but was it broadcast in 3D?

In fact, “is it 3D?” became the standard question before we bought tickets to any show. I was worried about the future of our species when I overheard one of my mother’s tuition students complaining that her school play was boring because it wasn’t 3D. Either she saw the world like a Picasso painting, or did not understand that human eyes view the world in 3D all the time.

So obviously, for a new movie 3D was as important a requirement as being fair was for a Bharat Matrimony profile. Its influence grew so insidious that 3D technology became like an Orwellian Big Brother, going back in time and snapping up beloved titles like Toy Story, Jurassic Park, and Titanic, and remaking them in its own twisted, darkened, blurry image.

These developments were met with great rejoicing. After all, we were all living in 3D-induced rapture, and we wanted to let its light into our lives. So, like good bhakts, we started thinking of ways to bring it into our homes. And then, the 3D TV you could install in your home was announced, and the whole world had a collective orgasm.

Every time a 3D release was announced, it was a bait-and-switch. We were expecting a Salman, but reality only delivered us Sohail.

3D TVs became the gold standard for the dick-measuring contests between manufacturers like Sony, Phillips, and Samsung. Every big electronics store at the time would offer their most expensive 3D TV set with a display exhibition area larger than the living rooms of most Mumbai apartments, but we didn’t care. We would re-model our apartments, even our lives, for the joys of 3D. We would fight off our family or housemates for the 3D goggles. Imagine the tug-of-war battles. We didn’t care. 3D was here, and it was going to change our fucking lives.

Only, it didn’t.

It took a while, but the realisation slowly dawned on us that 3D wasn’t changing the world. Just like you can’t polish a turd, slapping the gimmicky technology to a movie like Piranha 3DD did not make it anything more than a parade of bouncing boobs masquerading as a motion picture. The first big 3D hit, Avatar, had effectively pissed in the swimming pool, ruining it for anyone who wanted to dive in afterwards. Every time a 3D release was announced, it was a bait-and-switch. We were expecting a Salman, but reality only delivered us Sohail.

The 3D revolution, which had started with a thunderous bang, ended with a meek and unheard whimper. The idea that 3D was to movies what pop-up books were to literature began to sneak up on us. Of course, the first to turn their backs on the trend were hipsters. They trashed it as the stomping ground of ham-fisted, special-effects merchants like Michael Bay; nothing like their preferred Woody Allen cinematic experiments. Still, it’s easy to dismiss hipsters, because they’re biologically incapable of true love.

Oculus Rift

In the face of evolving virtual reality like Oculus Rift, 3D is your parents’ landline compared to your iPhone.

Tim P. Whitby / Getty Images

Then, the floodgates opened. Regular people realised that if a movie is giving them a headache without it being directed by Sajid Khan, then something is amiss. Studies were published about how 3D movies can cause nausea, headaches, and blurred vision, depriving doctors of a steady stream of cinephiliac patients. Barring exceptions like Bahubali, the only thing flying off the screen at 3D shows was waves of regret.

Suddenly, the luxury of filling your fridge with a week’s worth of groceries seemed like a better way to spend your money that watching another effects extravaganza that may or may not induce a migraine. For the four-eyed types like me, putting on a pair of 3D glasses over the optician-mandated pair I already had to wear, became as frustrating as having to wear a condom after getting a vasectomy. It dulls exciting sensations, feels constrictive, and ultimately, adds nothing.

However, unlike condoms, 3D is finally going out of style. It’s no longer a cure-all that carries a shit movie to a larger audience than it deserves. In the face of evolving virtual reality like Oculus Rift, 3D is your parents’ landline compared to your iPhone. The malaise has finally been checked, and no longer are we slaves to Imax and its brethren. But if you still want 3D entertainment after this glorious awakening, I’d suggest you go watch a play.