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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Getting intimate in Bombay's cinemas
A couple taking advantage of a 'Close Up' cinema ticket
Young couples are finding privacy in Bombay cinemas

Couples are flocking to a handful of Bombay cinema halls to take advantage of a new phenomenon - special "love seats".

In some of the city's cinemas, seats are being set aside in corners at the back of the theatre so that couples can share romantic moments while watching a movie.

At one theatre, the middle arm-rest between the two seats has been removed, thereby creating one big seat.

Man buying cinema ticket
The idea is proving popular
The concept, introduced by Hindustan Lever's toothpaste brand Close Up, has received a good response from young and old alike.

And with an eye on their potential market, the company has got its name emblazoned on the seats in at least one cinema.

But surprisingly, even those who have traditionally expressed concern about the corrupting influence of Western behaviour on Indian society, are tolerating the idea - at least for the moment.

Nowhere to hide

In India's bustling commercial capital, space is an expensive commodity and privacy almost non-existent.

There are very few places for two people in love to be alone together.

There are parks and promenades overlooking the sea, but these areas are teeming with people and a quiet corner is difficult to find.

Furthermore, public displays of intimacy - in particular kissing and fondling - between men and women are still far from the norm in India.

Alicia D'Souza is a young working woman who bought tickets for these corner seats to watch a movie with her boyfriend.

"I think this is a great idea, specially since there is no armrest in the middle and I can sit close to my boyfriend while watching the film," she said.

Popular all round

Cinema managers say these corner tickets are selling like hot cakes.

Couple on Marine Drive promenade, Bombay
Opportunities for privacy are rare in Bombay
Kamal Sharma, cinema manager of Globus cinema, said that there had been such a good response to the idea that they were planning to continue with the concept for at least two years.

Anita Menon, copy editor of popular women's magazine Femina, is not surprised by the excitement these seats have generated.

"How often do couples, for that matter even the married ones, get a chance to be together and enjoy some private moments in this overpopulated city of ours?" she asked.

"There's family at home, strangers gawping at you outside, where do you go? I think these corners are just what the doctor ordered."

Pramod Navalkar, ex-culture minister in the Shiv Sena government, said: "In present times, there is a need to be tolerant of the behaviour of young people.

"Of course if people start misbehaving in public then we can always withdraw this scheme, we are always at a liberty to do so."

For the time being, however, couples can get some respite in the darkness of cinema halls.

See also:

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