The Uphaar cinema building stands as a grim reminder of the tragedy that befell it long ago
Right from its hoarding to the first step of the ramshackle stairs leading to the battered windows, the building conjures up an eerie feeling of death and destruction. The walls, left in ruins, and the dust gathered on its doors, don't help either. Welcome to Uphaar cinema, 13years after the infamous ‘Uphaar fire' during the screening of J.P. Dutta's Border. It was once a hub of entertainment; today it is nothing less than a haunted building.
On June 13, 1997, an unprecedented tragedy befell Uphaar. The theatre became a holocaust and within minutes scores of people were burnt alive.
Years have gone by and so have the challenged convictions and compensations, yet the building continues to hold its ground as a memento of horrific memories, a lifetime of regret and loss of livelihood, nevertheless a turning point in the lives of many.
On January 27, 2003, the Ansals' plea seeking re-possession of the theatre was rejected on the ground that the place of incident had to be preserved for evidence. It has been sub judice since then and being located amidst one of the elitist areas of South Delhi, it is criticised by locals as a vestigial structure. “I have been here for two years and the building has been an abandoned abode with no caretakers or authorities to witness,” says a guard at the MCD parking in front of the cinema hall.
As per the Supreme Court order on May 12, 2009, the release of the above petition had been fixed for August 10, 2010, when the fate of this case will be signed and sealed.
Families for whom the building was the sole source of bread and butter are long forgotten or conveniently ignored. “I don't have much of an idea about the staff of Uphaar,” says James Mathew, chief of corporate communication at Ansal API. While the statement confirms the inferred, it further triggers a thought whether the victimis and the convicted are the only ones battling for hope.