Death of a bastion

Death of a bastion


Black tuxedo, a gun silencer, gelled hair, black shoes and a motive to kill the enemy. Saif Ali Khan makes his entry in his latest flick Agent Vinod. The movie is being shown all over India. But screenings at one particular hall will be more special than the rest of the country put together.

That is because it will be the last film to be screened at Delhi’s much loved Shakuntalam in Pragati Maidan which has had a successful run of over three decades. Probably, the cheapest hall in the city with tickets priced at Rs 60 and 80 only, Shakuntalam is now gearing up to bring down curtains on March 31st.

As a part of the development plan of India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) to enlarge conference facilities at Pragati Maidan to host seminars, conferences and other concurrent events with trade fairs, Shakuntalam Theatre will be re-developed as a small size conference facility with a seating capacity of 300 persons. Following this decision, the regular screening of films will be discontinued from April 1st.

Shakuntalam, screens the latest, be it Agent Vinod or Vidya Balan’s Kahaani. Many movie enthusiasts who have grown up watching films at Shakuntalam would be mourning the loss of one of their favourite hang-out zones. According to ITPO, Shakuntalam has outlived the purpose for which it was set up in 1981.

“Pragati Maidan’s whole motive was to promote trade and trade-related activities and for that we needed more conference halls. Film screening never comes under the category of trade promotion. So, that is why we have decided to construct a conference hall instead” said P C Sharma, General Manager, ITPO.

“We know that movie lovers are sad about its closure but we will be screening special films on and off. But, there will be no regular movie screenings.” Though, the ITPO has been able to garner good business over the last over 30 years, it is seeing an increased demand for more conferencing space apart from its perceived business-to-business clientele and Shakuntalam will now be renovated into a hall to cater to this demand.

According to P C Sharma, other locations in Pragati Maidan were being used for weddings and film shoots. But this practice has been discontinued and some of the existing restaurants are also likely to be closed.

“We had to discontinue a place like Phulwari because of security concerns. Weddings used to take place here, which raised serious security concerns.” But the theatre, which was centrally located and offered pocket- friendly ticket prices, will be missed by many.

Virender Rajput, a movie buff and a regular visitor since the hall’s inception says, “I will miss it badly. It is a big blow for all movie enthusiasts. Corruption is all over the country, including this place. They never advertised this hall ever in any of the papers. They will again get a budget for the construction and fill their pockets simultaneously.”

The closure makes us think about the last remaining single screens which evoke an old-world simplicity and a certain nostalgia. Other examples which fell prey to more ‘trendy’ options like multiplexes and malls - as in the case of much loved Chanakya.

Sangam in R K Puram has been closed down - ostensibly to be converted into a multiplex; Paras in Nehru Place has met with the same fate, while Savitri’s opening has met with severe opposition from the local residents, fearing traffic snarl-ups. Then there are Regal and Odean in Connaught Place whose existence too is being threatened.