Tuesday, December 01, 2009

City Landmark - Chanakya Cinema, Central Delhi

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City Landmark - Chanakya Cinema, Central Delhi

The landmark has vanished.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Last night, at 9.45 pm, I dreamt I went to Chanakya cinema again... after all these years. I stood by the box-office that sells Rs 30 front stall tickets. For a while I could not see the clerk inside. The window was barred to me. Ticketless, I walked towards the glass door. It was locked. I called in my dream to the cinema security guard, and had no answer. Peering closer through the dirty glass I saw that the theatre was uninhabited.

No crowd was waiting in the foyer. The little frames that should have displayed movie posters gaped forlorn. Then, like all dreamers, I was suddenly possessed with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me. The path wound away, as it had always done. But as I advanced, I was aware that a change had come upon it. The lobby was empty and unkempt. There were no love couples. No ladies in sari. No screaming children. No happy families. No man in the men’s loo. No popcornwalla on the counter. It was all dust, cobwebs and silence.

The gallery to the front stall was a thread of its former self, with the red carpet gone. There was no thud of Rs 30 footsteps stamping through the door to claim the best seats. I was alone inside (one thousand and seventy-nine more people were needed to make for a houseful show). In the eerie quiet, I sniffed for that familiar popcorn smell, but in vain.

I looked up to see the rich people in the Rs 80 balcony, but no one was there. The air conditioner too was not humming. The projector bulbs were not glowing. I sat down on the chair and listened to it creak as it unfolded. But I was facing... nothing. There was no screen — that thing where I had seen Dil Se (7 times), Kuch Kuch Hota Hain (thrice), and Devdas (twice). Soon, I remembered — in the dream — that Chanakya had shut down way back in 2007.

Few nights ago (this time not in a dream), in November, 2009, I was walking past what was Chanakya’s entrance gate. I knew the theater was history. That it had been taken over by the New Delhi Municipal Council. Opened in 1970, the first movie screened here was Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker. The last, Aamir Khan’s Tare Zameen Par. The news reports had said that a mall-multiplex complex was to spring up on its place. But to me, the building was always there. However, that night there was just emptiness.

Chanakya had finally been razed. I don’t know exactly when. The next morning, I logged on to savechanakya.com, the website that was created when the theater was closed for good. The screen said: The requested URL could not be retrieved.

Now it's there

City Landmark - Chanakya Cinema, Central Delhi

Now it's not

City Landmark - Chanakya Cinema, Central Delhi

Once, the gate

City Landmark - Chanakya Cinema, Central Delhi

Now, it's this

City Landmark - Chanakya Cinema, Central Delhi

Those days

City Landmark - Chanakya Cinema, Central Delhi

The Rs 30 queue would be here

City Landmark - Chanakya Cinema, Central Delhi

5 comments:

Megha said...

Can't believe it .. first appu ghar now Chanakya .. won't be able to relive my favorite childhood moments .. Watching a movie at Chanakya . going to the Nirula's in the semi-basement and slurping on Lime ice soda ..

Delhi is different every time I visit.. Its for the better I'm told but still it hurts :(

Anonymous said...

The least the DMC could have done was to publicize the demolition in order that Delhiites acould arrange for a Farewell Party or something of that sort.

Rajiv said...

waaaaaaaaaalaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh yaaaaaaaarrrrrrrr.bfr nd aftrrr ,mast picsssss.lage rahoooooo soofi bhai.waise id per kya kiya nd some article nd pics of id

Ank said...

Wow...MAS....this saddens me....many an "engleesh movies" we watched there.
As always you are doing a great job here...

NCB said...

As someone who grew up in Delhi and doesn't get a chance to go back often, I really enjoy and appreciate your pictures.