Staff Reporter

The Capital’s love affair with the grand old theatre comes to a sad end

NEW DELHI: The screening of the 9-45 p.m. show of “Taare Zameen Par” at Chanakya cinema here on Thursday night marked the end of the Capital’s love affair with the 37-year-old theatre in Chanakyapuri.

The decision to vacate the hall premises by December 31 comes in the wake of a Supreme Court judgment paving the way for the New Delhi Municipal Council to raze the theatre complex and build a multiplex-cum-mall on a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis.

A Chanakya theatre employee, Ajay Verma, said: “We have been given the December 31 deadline and we will be using the next few days to dismantle equipments and infrastructure support provided in the theatre.”

“I have worked here for the past 12 years and have become extremely attached to it. The closure is an emotional farewell for all of us who have worked here and dedicated our lives to it,” Mr. Verma added.

Built in 1970, the first movie to be screened at the theatre was Raj Kapoor’s “Mera Naam Joker” on December 17, 1970. Ever since, the tenants of the theatre complex have been the father-son duo of Rajesh Khanna and Aditya Khanna who have been instrumental in making the movie experience worthwhile for several generations of the Capital’s cinema-goers.

Anupam Gupta, a frequent visitor to the cinema hall, recounted: “I first visited the hall in the mid-1990s for the screening of the film “Gupt”. Even though I had already watched the film the day before in some other hall, I went to Chanakya just to experience the movie’s songs through the theatre’s state-of-the-art sound system back then.”

Another Chanakya patron, Gautam Tewari, said: “It would be great if the new multiplex to be put up there retains the name for nostalgic value. That way the place will seem the same but will be put up in a new form.”

Boasting an annual footfall of about 8.5 lakh and a turnover of over Rs 1.5 crore, the 1,076-seat hall has been a frontrunner in introducing the latest technological advancements in theatre technology in the Capital, according to Aditya Khanna.

Recounting the milestones crossed, Mr. Khanna said: “Chanakya was the first hall in Delhi to introduce the concept of a 70 mm screen, deep-curve screen and dual-language programming. The nature of a theatre manager is such that we rarely get a chance to interact with the audience or get a feedback from them. However, in the past three to four days I have been flooded with appreciation about our work and it feels great. ”

“I would attribute the audience’s attachment to Chanakya to being able to successfully manage, operate and keep abreast of new technology with a pulse on what viewers want and at a price which is not exorbitant,” he added.