Here is a riddle for all folks living in Bengaluru… and especially those that have lived in Bangalore.
What is common between Lakshmi, Lavanya, Urvashi, Apsara, Menaka and Triveni? Ohh please… give it a try instead of stereotyping me as an amorous male.
What if I extend the list to Nataraja, Sri, Mukunda, Naga, Cauvery and Ajanta? Yeah… the true Bangaloreans should have cracked this by now.
Let me add some more esoteric names as part of the final clue: Bluemoon, Bluediamond, Symphony, Galaxy, Everest, Opera, Imperial, Lido and Plaza.
The above are (in many cases ‘were’) names of movie theatres in Bengaluru!!! Theatres which bring fond [maybe even the occasional sad] memories to tens and thousands of people.
I liked Lido [named after the founding partners Linganna and Dodanna] for its vast expanse, urbane crowd and superb audio. But Plaza was my personal favourite. Situated on the famous Mahatma Gandhi Road, I can even now recollect the names of movies that I have seen there. Jurassic Park, Congo, Mission Impossible, Saving Private Ryan, The Mexican and Gladiator were just some of them. The huge red drapes, rickety wooden floors and lack of sophistication at Plaza, served as a time machine for viewers. In the mid-to-late-nineties you could always here someone yelling ‘Baazigar Baazigar Baazigar’ on the pavement near Plaza, even though the (in)famous movie was never being played there. This was how hawkers used to sell roasted peanuts. I never understood why they shouted ‘Baazigar’, but business was brisk. The exhilarating experience of watching a late night movie at Plaza, followed by very late night dinner near Russell Market could only be negated by mommy-dear’s rebukes the next morning!
The ever growing need to create new revenue models has dealt a death blow to many of the above iconic theatres. While Plaza sacrificed itself for the metro railway station… others like Lido, Imperial, Bluemoon, Galaxy gave way to different business ventures… a few metamorphosed into multi-screen theatres… and very few have survived the vagaries of time… at least for now!
Amongst the surviving theatres, I feel that Everest needs a special mention. Situated near Frazer Town, one of the oldest suburbs in Bangalore, this theatre was a taboo about two decade ago. Leave alone going inside it… just being spotted near it or caught watching the sleazy posters of the movies that were being played, was enough to be castigated at home and even in the neighborhood. Such were the movies that Everest hosted in those days! However as Bollywood movies started including their fair share of soft porn and item numbers, the owner [or maybe a group of owners… I don’t know] of Everest perhaps realized that they do not have an USP. Thus the theatre was renovated and emerged in a new avatar playing mainstream Hindi and English movies. And I must say, it is a nice place to watch a movie. A movie here and some kebabs in one of the many outlets in nearby Mosque Road is a good combination. I watched Dangal a few months ago, with my spouse and two daughters. This sort of family outing in Everest was unimaginable many years ago!
The numerous multiplexes that have dotted the city now are a testimony of not just the pressures of the movie industry but also of our penchant to ape the western world. I still prefer the good old days of single screen theatres, which I think is our identity. As with many good things… what remains now are just the fond memories!