Goodbye Smruti! End of legacy of single screen

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 29 Aug 2018 09:29:13


By Aasawari Shenolikar,

I belong to the generation for whom going to the theatre for watching a film was like a mini celebration. Having been born and brought up in Delhi, theatres in Connaught Place - Regal, Plaza and Odeon were a favourite haunt. And if, at that time, I didn’t get to watch every single film that would release in the theatres (tickets at Rs 15 were considered super expensive), the scenario changed completely a couple of years after my marriage when I came to the Orange City. This time my profession took me to the steps of the theatres here, as reviewing a movie was part of my work. Smruti theatre, from 1993 became my favourite place and every Friday, sharp at 11:45 am I would park my vehicle to catch the first show of the first day.

The feeling of watching a movie on the big screen has always been awesome. When the lights dim, the rays from the projector fall on the big screen disturbing the dust particles that dance in the air, the faint whiff of popcorn and samosa wafting from the lobby adding to the heightened senses and I am transported, for most part of three hours into a world of fantasy, a world of entertainment, a world where I become one with the characters on screen.

Sandwiched between the Coffee House and Tuli International in Sadar, Smruti was ‘the’ place to be if one wanted to watch a film. As time progressed, and newer technologies invaded the world of entertainment, Smruti was not far behind and soon the audience were transported into the world of awesome sound - the Dolby sound system brought alive the faintest of noise and sound on the screen. The management, Rathi Group, kept up pace with the changing scenario, renovating it time and again, to make the movie experience more pleasurable.

But I guess, over the years, since the times the multiplexes made a mark in the city’s skyline, footfalls steadily decreased, forcing the management to take a decision to close shop of an established that ruled the world of marquee since 1985. Akshay Rathi, owner of the group that runs the theatre, comments that talks and negotiations are going on and “we are looking at a complete redevelopment of the entire complex. Rest assured what we will bring to the Nagpurians will be another delightful experience.”

For Smruti, location has been its highlight. At one point of time, when celebrities would come to the city to promote their film, they would stay at Tuli International which was just a stone’s throw away from the theatre and walk down to the cinema hall to interact with the fans. The entire stretch of Sadar road would be crowded with frenzied fans, eager to get a glimpse of their favourite star. I remember the young, gorgeous Katrina Kaif wowing the fans with her ethereal beauty and her slight fascinating accent. I remember the ‘serial kisser’ Emraan Hashmi and the petite Prachi Desai sitting in the owner’s cabin and interacting with the press, on a one-to-one basis before going to meet the fans who had been waiting patiently for the stars to make their appearance.

It was not just the Bollywood gliterrati, including doyens like Shatrughan Sinha, Prem Chopra, Subhash Ghai, Rajkumar Hirani, Sanjay Dutt, to name a few, who made a beeline to Smruti, even the gods of willows, who would stay at Tuli, after a hard day's work on the cricket field, would walk down to relax in the theatre, catching up on the latest film.

Santosh Mishra, currently Manager with Smruti theatre, has been with the organisation since 1996, goes down memory lane and recounts anecdotes about Sunil Gavaskar, the debonair Azharuddin, members of the Sri Lankan team and West Indies players who all sat down in this very theatre to watch a film. “I am sad that the theatre will be eventually pulled down, but I have very happy memories of the place. The most satisfying experience has been that over the years I have build relations with the people of Nagpur.”

The Hitavada has had a very close association with this theatre. There was a time when, during vacations, every Sunday, children’s movies were screen in Smruti and a couple of other theatres in the city. Smruti was the preferred choice of the Twinkle Club members for it boasted of plush seats, it boasted of clean surroundings and it had the crispiest of samosas and the coldest of colas.

Smruti was the theatre where I could block a ticket after calling up Mishraji, Smruti was the theatre where I sat in the manager’s cabin and did telephonic interviews with many a director and actor, Smruti was the place that I frequented and cherished where, every Friday, till 2007, I got lost in time and space. Of course, after the multiplexes cropped up in the city, my footfalls too reduced to this single screen theatre, but the warm association that we built over a number of years continued and hopefully, it will continue.

On August 30, at midnight Smruti will close the shutters one last time. This might signify end of legacy of the single screen entity, a place that was the source of entertainment each week and brought on tears and smiles, joy and sadness for the three hours or so that many of us spent in the dark confines of the theatre.



Netflix and Amazon to contribute to decrease in footfalls even in multiplexes

Single screen theatres took a major hit when multiplexes came up in major cities. Soon they became a dying commodity, and even in our Orange City, as many eight theatres have closed down purely because of financial reasons. However, as development in technology has taken giant strides, movie experience is now shifting to the cosy confines of one’s homes. Giant Flat screen TV’s with theatre effects, smart TV’s that connect to the internet and you can download or watch live streaming, Web content providers like Netflix and Amazon, will, in the days to come, contribute to the decrease in footfalls even in multiplexes. When one can watch world class cinema at a fraction of the price that one pays for watching one movie in a multiplex, is there a reason that the tech savvy generation will not turn to something that is beneficial and convenient for them?