Despite being a favourite destination for filmmakers, Shimla got its first cinema hall post Independence only recently
Its picturesque snow-capped mountains and lush green landscapes formed the backdrop against which many Hindi film heroes and heroines romanced each other and held the audience spellbound. The town also boasted of a good number of cinema halls and dramatic clubs in the pre-Independence era.
However, post-Independence, the sleepy hill-town of Shimla was left ignored vis-à-vis the growth and development of an otherwise multi-crore film industry elsewhere. Even tinsel town stars belonging to Shimla like Manohar Singh, Anupam Kher and Preity Zinta could hardly do anything for the advancement of the industry, be it the creation of shooting studios or film ranges or even the construction of any new cinema halls or theatres.
The town had at least four film theatres before Independence; but the number remained the same in the last six decades and their quality of screening and standards have only deteriorated. Now out of these four cinema halls, only two are operational.
The Regal near the famous woodcraft bazaar was burnt down and never remade again; the downtown Rivoli was almost buried under a landslide and was forced to shut sometime back. The Ritz with modest renovations and the low-end Shahi are barely functioning and catering to a very small section of the population. “Because of no proper theatres in the town now, we have stopped watching films in Shimla,” says a majority of the youth who prefers to go to multiplexes in the neighbouring States.
The long-time demand of the residents, mainly youngsters, was finally fulfilled recently when the town’s first multiplex with two screens and about 400 seats started functioning near the newly-built ISBT. The multiplex screens have full HD projection and digital sound; it has been promoted by the SRS group.
This 11,000 sq ft-multiplex is the first such facility in Himachal Pradesh and the 13 multiplex built by the group in north India, said Tinku Singh, group president of SRS.
The State’s Transport Minister G.S. Bali, who inaugurated the multiplex, said similar facilities would also come up near the ISBTs of other tourist places like Manali, Dharamsala and Dhalli. He also said a new ropeway would be started soon from the multiplex to the heart of town on Mall Road. To avoid the congestion in the busy hill town, tourist vehicles would be stopped at the entrance before the ISBT and ropeways and local transport would be promoted thereafter. A big parking lot has also been made near the multiplex for tourists and locals, he said.