Once a cinema hub, Gandhinagar no longer a draw for movie business

Fading glory

Once a cinema hub, Gandhinagar no longer a draw for movie business

Gandhinagar, the hub of the movie business in Karnataka, has lost its appeal to the industry.

For decades, Kannada films vied for cinema halls in the bustling business district in the heart of the city. But with the advent of multiplexes and the razing of single-screen halls, Gandhinagar's prestige is sliding into history. In recent years, the number of theatres in the area has come down from 20 to 7.

The area is just across the city bus and railway stations, and it was easy for the thousands visiting the city to hop across, catch a film, eat at one of the many famous eateries, and take the last bus or train home. Those glory days are gone. Sagar, Prabhat, Alankar, Tribhuvan, Majestic, Kailash, States, Geetha, Sapna, Menaka, Mayura, Kempegowda, Prashanthi and Aparna have shut down. “It was easy to carry reels from one theatre to another. That is one of the reasons a cluster of halls came up in Gandhinagar,” said Sa Ra Govindu, president, KFCC.

Another reason was that the distributors and exhibitors had their offices in Gandhinagar, and co-ordinating was a breeze. D Rajendra Singh Babu, direcor and chairman of the Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy, recalled, “There were 16 theatres on Kempegowda Road alone. Every producer dreamed of a release at Alankar cinema.”

Every producer believed his film would be a hit if only he could get Alankar. “It boasted of high quality sound and projection,” Babu told DH.

Cinemas were controlled by non-Kannada business interests, and even blockbuster Kannada films featuring Rajkumar used to find it difficult to find a theatre in Gandhinagar. Thanks to concerted efforts, besides protests and demonstrations, Kannada films began to get their due.

Newer directors aren't too worried about getting halls in Gandhinagar. In fact, they prefer multiplexes, which offer them a better deal, says S D Aravind, director of Last Bus (2016). As the city grew through the second half of the 20th century, cinema halls came up in many neighbourhoods. That brought down the pressure on cinemas in Gandhingar, but the celebratory nature of an outing to the area, which also offered shopping on the footpaths, continued. 

Distributors who control theatres in Gandhinagar are businessmen with little sympathy for experimental cinema, and that is another reason producers of non-mainstream films are more comfortable with multiplexes, Aravind added.

K M Chaitanya, who shot into the limelight with the gangster drama Aa Dinagalu (2007), said Gandhingar held sway over the industry for many decades.

“It lost its relevance about five years ago. There used to a tough competition to get a major theatre in Gandhinagar before the multiplexes came up, but now it doesn't matter so much,” he told DH.

Real estate is a factor, too. Many fourth and fifth generation owners of the cinema halls feel no sentimental affinity to the movie business. 

“They want to build shopping complexes... that is how many theatre spaces are now shopping areas,” Govindu said. Music composer Hamsalekha blames film makers for the decline.  “Theatres have lost their charm as owners aren't upgrading and changing with the times. The same can be said about the films, too,” he said.

Remember them?
Gandhinagar housed cinema halls that were household names: Sagar, Prabhat, Alankar, Triveni, Tribhuvan, Kapali, Majestic, Kailash, States, Geetha, Abhinay, Santosh, Nartaki, Bhumika, Movieland, Sapna, Menaka, Mayura, Kempegowda, Prashanthi and Aparna.

60 theatres shut down in a decade
The city once had over 150 theatres. At one time, Gandhinagar had 20 theatres, showing films in a babble of languages, in just 2 sq km. In the last decade, 60 single screen halls were shut down. Now, the city has about 90 single screen theatres and 29 multiplexes.

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