There is an article in Readers Digest latest edition on the cinema theatres of yore. It makes a mention of Kolkata’s iconic Metro there at Esplanade. There was a mention of a grand chandler that adorned the central foyer of the theatre. Responding to the article, several readers got nostalgic about their respective childhood. A reader made a mention of Mayfair theatre in the heart of Lucknow in Hazratganj.
Such articles take a reader to a journey down the memory lane. I remember the days when going to a movie was actually a big event that used to be planned well in advance. Generally, fathers, whose offices used to be either in central business districts ( Connaught Place in Delhi or Fort in Mumbai or Esplanade in Kolkata) or close to it would book tickets in advance for a weekend show. Iconic theatres such as Regal, Odeon, Plaza, Rivoli ( all in Delhi), Regal, Eros, Sterling (in Mumbai), Metro, Globe ( in Kolkata) were all located in city centres and going for movie meant visit to a fine dining restaurant and shopping as well.
Then there were some unforgettable events. Delhi’s and probably the country’s best theatre Chanakya opened with the premier show of Raj Kapoor’s classic flop Mera Naam Joker! People would just visit the theatre to see it and salvaged the flop movie to some extent. Then there was all time favourite Sholay released in 1975. The booking plans used to open on Monday and fill up within an hour for the entire week! Plaza in Delhi used to show CinemaScope and stereophonic sound version of the movie and I remember managing to see the movie only after 6 months of its release! Those were the days when the movies used to run for weeks and years celebrating multiple jubilees unlike present day when all that matters is the first weekend! Almost all the names mentioned above are either closed in converted into multiplexes, last surviving theatre being Regal bang on the circle at the beginning of Colaba!
Today’s multiplexes have latest projection systems, Dolby sound, push back plush seats, superb air conditioning, well stocked cafeterias and class gentry! What they probably lack is the soul that those movie theatres with well lit spacious lobbies, large auditoria and people throwing coins on the screen or dancing on the favourite number had! To watch popular movie Jai Santoshi Ma, viewers would go to theatre bare feet!
We all talk about technology and luxuries of the present times! What we miss is the spirit and soul when every small thing was a big event!