Seawater vs Chocolate (a true teen story of film rivalry)


We anticipate a captivating movie based on its appealing poster, but our personal opinion of the film ultimately depends on its quality. Even highly acclaimed films might not resonate with us. As new films release, we eagerly await the next one, often comparing them. This comparison focuses on their quality rather than similarities. Sometimes, a preference for the preceding or succeeding film leads to what’s termed ‘film rivalry.’


That has certainly happened in my case. In the year 2005, I watched two movies: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Into the Blue. Both films are adaptations of well-known stories. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the second movie based on Roald Dahl’s book of the same name. Meanwhile, Into the Blue is a remake of The Deep, a film based on Peter Benchley’s novel with the same title. Benchley also authored the book that inspired the iconic movie Jaws. However, I only learned these details later in life. I often believed that my knowledge of the latter depended on my familiarity with the former. Nevertheless, let me share how I experienced both films and which one I ultimately preferred.


          Vikram Wagh

In 2005, at 15 years old, I remained true to my lifelong tendencies. I had scant friends and little inclination for socializing. Instead, I enjoyed watching TV, favoring channels like Disney Channel, Animal Planet, and BBC on Sky Television. These channels mirrored my interests then and still do. Despite my parents’ efforts to encourage me otherwise, I held minimal interest. It’s worth noting that I did attempt to connect with school cliques, although I later recognized that they only embraced me to exploit my food or have me perform for them.

Upon learning about the upcoming new film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, featuring Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, I remembered the 1971 original film titled Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I had watched this earlier film two years before in 2003 on TV. While I had not read Dahl’s book, I was familiar with both the book and the movie. The new film released in July, but in Auckland, it was scheduled for a September release, shortly after my parents’ consecutive birthdays during my Year 10 school holidays at Mt Roskill Grammar School. Though my parents asked if I wanted to go, I had mixed feelings.

On a day when my dad sent my brother Rajat and me to see the film at St. Luke’s Mall, a conveniently located theatre, he purchased our tickets since I wasn’t earning at the time. The movie struck me as gothic, quirky, and not particularly engaging. Its humour seemed rude and unfair in parts, which I could not relate to. The only aspects I connected with were the characters’ kindness and Charlie helping Wonka reconcile with his estranged father—an addition not in the original book. Unfamiliar with how film remakes worked then, I felt it didn’t honour the essence of the initial movie. Since I had not read the source material, I cannot provide any comments or insights on that aspect.

After leaving the theatre, feeling that the film was a waste of time, I noticed a captivating poster as my dad picked us up. It depicted a man and woman in swimwear by the water’s edge, gazing at the horizon and the title of the movie that this poster was representing was Into the Blie. My attention was fixated on the lead actress – her beauty and intriguing presence held me. The male lead was equally captivating. I felt a strong desire to watch this movie, unsure how to arrange it since I wasn’t familiar with social interactions or friendships. The film stayed on my mind, even during the school term affected by my Asperger Syndrome. Teacher aides supported me due to my condition in those days. Although distracted, I managed to focus on my work. During the school break, the movie’s memory lingered, and I vividly recall how the film occupied my mind when one day on Wednesday, I assisted the Deputy Principal in directing visitors around the school and aiding them at reception. In my free time, I reached out to the Pradhan Family, our newfound friends, being Pradeep, and Pronoti and their sons Siddharth (known simply as ‘Sid’), and Sanat when I ran into them one day at an Indian restaurant. While the Pradhan brothers showed interest in joining, my lack of awareness about socializing led me to forget to follow up to which I owe them an apology for.
On the next Thursday, I was driven by my mother to Three Kings School to attend my Karate lesson at Three Kings School. Despite heavy rain and hoping for my mother to pick me up or the rain to stop when the lessons were over, I decided to walk home without an umbrella or raincoat. Inspired by a dance in Kevin Lyttle’s “Turn Me On” music video, I embraced the rain and sang the song on my journey. Later, I realized that the phrase ‘Turn Me On’ can have a positive interpretation rather than a privately embarassing one. Once home, my parents helped me dry off, and after a warm shower, I did my homework and Into the Blue, which intrigued me after watching the disappointing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The film starred Paul Walker and Jessica Alba, both new names to me, though Alba’s beauty captured my interest.

My parents share their children’s interests to connect better. Today both parents share my interests, initially inspired by my mom, and later my dad too. With dad occupied and Rajat playing rugby, mom joined me for a chat. We discussed Star Wars facts I learned from documentaries about the original films, and the prequel The Phantom Menace, and George Lucas the man who started it all. I shared my reason for wanting to see the film, which amused mom. Still, she agreed to take me. The following day, I had counselling at Rainbow House with Kate D’Anvers and dad then dropped me from there to school. After school, I went home to meet people devoted to assisting those with special needs in acquiring new skills. I cannot recall their names, but I am grateful for learning how to tie my shoelaces from them, a skill I struggled with since childhood. They invited me for a session and challenged me to tie an unworn shoe’s lace, which I eventually mastered. When they saw me that day, they witnessed my triumph as I tied not only my own shoelaces but also theirs—an inspiring testament to their effective training. That night, with limited internet knowledge, I found out Into the Blue was showing at St. Luke’s Theatres. I informed my parents, and they said I would be taken there on the upcoming weekend (Saturday).

The next day, I was filled with excitement for the movie, anticipating a predominantly romantic storyline set by the seaside. I remember spending the day watching Disney Channel, although the specific content escapes me. Both my father and mother accompanied me to the theatre, with my father taking care of my ticket. While we waited for the film to commence, I can recall my parents expressing their lack of interest in the movie. They had organised a family outing to the movies solely to watch ‘Hitch,’ featuring Will Smith, a film more aligned with their preferences. I understood and respected their choice not to accompany me, as the appeal of this movie was unique to my tastes and not necessarily shared by them.


The time to enter the cinema arrived shortly after and the ticket collector who attended to me resembled a young James Earl Jones, famous for voicing Darth Vader in Star Wars and Mufasa in The Lion King. Inside the theatre, there were surprisingly few people. An ad for SkyCity cinemas played, followed by a previews of “The World’s Fastest Indian,” starring (Sir) Anthony Hopkins. The anticipated movie finally began after more previews. It centred on Jared and Sam, played by Paul Walker and Jessica Alba respectively, who discover a crashed plane with drugs while diving in the Bahamas. They are joined by their friends Bryce and Amanda, who get involved with a drug dealer named Primo. The group faces challenges and suspects a link to Jared’s ex-boss, Derek Bates. I enjoyed the film, especially Walker and Alba’s romantic scenes, heightened by unexpected villains, gunshots, and shark attacks that made the audience (even me) jump.

Upon its conclusion, I emerged with the sensation of having enjoyed a true cinematic delight, replacing my previous disappointments for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with a new-founded fandom for Into the Blue. I committed to owning this film upon its DVD release, a promise fulfilled on my 16th birthday the next year. Subsequently, I realized it was a romantic-crime thriller linked to The Deep a movie adapted from a novel by Peter Benchley who also authored Jaws, which was another blockbuster film. Ironically, the day after watching the film, I read a book about sharks, which discussed how Jaws negatively impacted their reputation. Peter Benchley, feeling responsible for this, transformed into an advocate, dispelling misconceptions about sharks’ behaviour towards humans.


Two years after I saw Into the Blue, in 2007, the year I was 17 I discovered that Paradise is a gift when one has the same feelings around the interests they have, the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the friends or family they are with or the places they are in. I had always felt the feeling of Paradise from a young age when I used to listen to the 90s series of songs known as Pure Moods and also when I listened to artists like Vengaboys, Aqua or watched any film to do with Disney. This feeling was especially strong when I went to Singapore for the first time in 1999 at the age of 9 though I did not discover how much I liked it until that year. I decided that seven places would represent my gift of Paradise (which I used to call ‘Singapore Feeling’ at the time though I now know that Singapore may be the king of Paradise yet there is more to Paradise than just that so as a result, the word is hardly used anymore), Singapore, Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, China, Tanzania and Malaysia. Why these ye may ask? Because they all have something to do with the Lion which is my favourite animal and as a result the Lion is a symbol of my gift of Paradise. I would truly encourage everyone to find their gift of Paradise because it can change their life and give them a sense of purpose and direction. It does not have to be similar to mine because your symbol of Paradise may be something different based on your interest and as a result the nation/s that represent your interest. Yet returning to the story, Into the Blue was one of the first films I considered Exotic, meaning part of Paradise.


Having this film as part of my (favourite) Exotic films also brought about a series of wonderful future events, having additionally discovered my gift of Paradise. I left those people who I felt used me for food or entertainment. I made new friends who I love to hang out with and they like me for who I am as much as I do for them. We hang out at bars to have drinks or do karaoke. Some of those friends also recommended me to a theatre group where I have made other friends and it has allowed me to discover my acting ability, something which I used to imitate scenes from films which my family and family friends always praised and suggested trying it out so their words may have been a positive harbinger of joining the theatre which I love to this day. In 2009, when I was 19 I went to Singapore for the first time on my own and discovered why I love it so much, because it means Lion City and I love Lions. After I left Rainbow House’s counselling, I had another counsellor, Colleen Emmens who I am sorry to say was not empathetic which is why I stopped seeing her after some time. Yet in 2013 when I was 23, I met another wonderful counsellor, Dave McMillian. We love working with each other and still do to this day as he is very empathetic and understanding. Much like my gift of Paradise has given me a sense of purpose and direction, so too has he. I also became more open to my parents trying to get me out there to meet people and make friends which was especially so when they sent me to Autism NZ which has social groups for both juniors and seniors who have Asperger or Autism. While the senior group was unfair to me, I have found friends at the junior group which I am a part of to this day. In the end, making Into the Blue one of my favourite films and one of the best films of Paradise has been a harbinger of life-changing events that happened in the future for me. Yet for others when it comes to a choice between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Into the Blue, they may chose the former or they may chose the latter depending on which film appealed to them more regardless of how their choice may (depending on the circumstances) change their life. It is your choice to decide which the better film is.


The End

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