With a mere 30 % seat occupancy in its last show, it wasn’t the type of closing Shakuntalam Theatre at Pragati Maidan would have expected. The 306-seater AC theatre, popular for its pocket-friendly ticket prices, screened its last commercial movie — Agent Vinod — on Saturday at 6.30pm. The theatre, which started in 1981 to promote Pragati Maidan, will now be converted into a conference hall as it makes more financial sense for the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO).
In times of multiplexes, it was the only no-frills single-screen theatre popular with the youth.
On its last day, there were many who came to catch the last glimpse of the 35mm screen on which they had watched some of the best cinema of their lives. “They could have made conference hall somewhere else. There was no need to shut Shakuntalam,” said TA Khan, who came to watch the last show with his kids. The cinema hall, which in the last one decade also started screening commercial films in order to survive, was a delight for cinema lovers as it showcased both Indian and foreign classics.
“Actors such as Irrfan Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Barry John used to come here in the late 1980s. The movies screened during those days were more of tutorials for budding filmmakers and actors,” said Mohammed Yameen, the theatre manager.
It wasn’t only parallel cinema that Shakuntalam screened, for English movie buffs too, it was the only option till late ’90s as no cinema hall other than south Delhi’s Priya, now PVR Priya, screened English movies.
Shakuntalam too had its share of ups and down. “There was a time when it turned into a rickety theatre like other single screens. Lack of maintenance had almost ruined it before it was refurbished some five to six years ago,” said Anandita Sen, a movie buff.
As the Capital loses its cultural skin of ’80s and ’90s to grow into an island of development, Shakuntalam comes as yet another loss after Appu Ghar.