Etched on the silver screens of single screen theatres of Chandigarh are endless stories of Tricitys glamorous past. But the emergence of multiplexes in the city have rendered these theatres vacant,without any audience or income. Many of them are approaching gradual and inevitable demise being replaced by malls and multiplexes.
Recounting the old days,Rajendar Thakur who has been working for Neelam Theatre for more than four decades now said: Those were totally different days. Some of the actors who used to go for shooting in Manali would stay in Chandigarh. In the evenings,some of them would come for the show. I still remember Om Prakash coming in shorts and T-shirt and enjoying a movie.
Sometimes,distributors used to organise their visits. Dilip Kumar came to the hall to promote his film Purab Aur Paschim. Dharmendra too came to watch his 1967 release An Evening in Paris, he added.
It is only the memories of good days that remains with these theaters. Neelam,which has seating capacity of around 1,000 people,hardly manages to sell 100 tickets a day now.
We have cheap tickets. It is Rs 70 for balcony and Rs 50 for stalls,still we hardly find any takers. So,the owners have decided to shut it down. It will be demolished and a multiplex be built here, said Thakur.
The interiors of Batra Cinema,with pillars designed as trees and a water fountain in the waiting hall,speak of its magnificent beginning. The theatre,which was opened on July 11,1980,had Swayamvar starring Sanjeev Kumar,Shashi Kapoor and Vidya Sinha as its first release.
A trophy commemorating the silver jubilee celebration of Kaho Na Pyaar Hai sits on the shelf of managers room. Speaking to Newsline,Vinay Gambhir who has worked as a manger in Batra Cinema since its opening said: This movie broke all the records,it went on for 25 weeks. Movies like Namak Halal,Agnisakshi and Karma were also houseful for more then 15 weeks. But one film that attracted unimaginable crowd was Machis starring Tabu and Chandrachur Singh. This hall has 1,443 seats. While it used to be jam packed,an equal number of people used to wait outside to watch the movie.
Showing the grilled wall near the rear entrance of the theatre,Gambhir said: This use to be a glass wall but on one occasion,there was so much of people,that it broke. Then,we got grills. Now,there is no crowd. We hardly sell 50 tickets and mainly,some young people who have a budget problem,come here. There was a time when people used to run behind me to get the tickets,now hardly any one comes here. A mall will now be constructed here.
We also used to organise stage shows. I remember when Gurdas Mann came,it was tough to mange the crowd. When Abhishek Bachchan,along with J P Dutta and his wife Bindiya Goswami came to promote his first movie,people went berserk. When I see the deserted premises now,I feel sad, he added.