It seems like 'The End' for the 80- year- old Novelty Cinema in the Walled City.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) plans to redevelop the cinema building on Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Road into a commercial center — a decision many feel will deprive Delhi of an important landmark.
The number of cinema halls in the Walled City has come down from 12 to 4 in the last decade. Among the cinemas that have closed are Majestic, Jubilee, New Amar and Minerva.
Excelsior, Moti and West End are the only ones in Old Delhi that are still screening films.
Old timers believe that the conversion of the Novelty building into a commercial centre will mean the loss of a prominent Old Delhi landmark.
They are not exaggerating. In 1930s, cinema halls such as Novelty, New Amar and Excelsior were popular weekend destinations for Delhites.
But the civic body has its reasons.
“The cinema was in a dilapidated condition. It was hardly a heritage structure. We have to come to terms with the fact that single screen cinema halls are giving way to multiplexes everywhere,” said Deep Mathur, director, Press and Information, MCD.
According to many, the civic body lacks an understanding of what constitutes heritage.
“The Novelty was the place where we used to watch films in our college days. The MCD wants to renovate old havelis, but there is such a lack of concern for the city's old cinema halls,” said Satish Sundra, 74, owner Ram Chandra and Sons, the city's oldest toyshop. “If Connaught Place can be renovated, why can’t they renovate the city's old cinemas?”
Aditya Sharma, 30, a lawyer, said a historical city like Delhi should have a mix of old single screen cinema halls and modern multiplexes.
"Old cinema halls are an integral part of the city's heritage. The government should take initiatives to renovate them," he said. “The kind of glitzy commercial complex the MCD is planning will be out of tune with the character of the Walled City.”
He cited the example of Delite Cinema on Asif Ali Road, which has been preserved and is running successfully.
Delite cinema, built in 1954, looks like a five-star heritage hotel and continues to attract cine goers in droves from all across the city.
Shashank Raizada, owner of Delite cinema, said: “While we have continuously upgraded our hall by investing crores in improving ambience and amenities, we have not tampered with the structure of the building at all.”
“It would have been much better if a landmark cinema like Novelty had been redeveloped as cinema hall instead of being turned into commercial complex,” he added.
Most Delhiites share his view.