We’re catching the 11.15 pm show of Ice Age 3 at Fame Adlabs in Andheri. Owing to the lashing rains, the multiplex sports a deserted look. Suddenly, heads turn to a Land Cruiser whose driver hurriedly holds the door open while clutching an umbrella. From within emerges Shilpa Shetty, garbed in rolled up jeans and a casual tee. She struts across to the theatre accompanied by sister Shamita and friends as the crowd gawks. Celebrity spotting has been a regular pastime on Andheri’s New Link Road ever since the city’s first multiplex, Fame Adlabs, opened here in April 2002.
FAME AND FORTUNE
What was once a little-developed locality, with a sprinkling of offices and residential buildings dotting its marshy landscape, is now the city’s filmi hub, housing three swanky multiplexes, two malls, several top-notch film and TV offices, and a string of posh restaurants. As old-time residents will tell you, the area had only music label companies TIPS and Super Cassettes offices and a lone Mongini’s bakery before 2002.
Now, Andheri’s address book reads like the who’s who of Indian entertainment –film producers Yash Raj and Rakesh Roshan, NDTV Imagine, Balaji Telefilms and SAB TV, all have their offices or studios in the vicinity. Popular restaurants like Trishna, Kailash Parbat, Little Italy, Indigo Deli and Mainland China have sprung up. And there is now a trinity of theatres, with Fun Republic and Cinemax added to Fame Adlabs.
Like a moth to fame
“This was a prime catchment area for us,” explains Shonali Shroff, head of corporate communications, Fame. “because the film and TV communities of Juhu and Lokhandwala had to travel all the way to Bandra to watch films at Gaiety-Galaxy. Since Mumbai didn’t have a multiplex, we knew we would draw a large audience by setting it up here,” she explains.
True to Fame’s first tagline, ‘Buzz chahiye, aa jaaye’, the area began buzzing as moviegoers from Malad to Bandra thronged the multiplex. Shroff also credits Fame with bringing back the trend of grand movie premieres. “Our premieres, which were always attended by big Bollywood stars, attracted the media to this area,” she says. Even today, Shilpa Shetty, Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Tabu, Priyanka Chopra and Shahid Kapoor are Fame regulars, says Shroff.
Rapidly following Fame’s footsteps, Fun Republic was launched in August 2003 as an entertainment destination with cinema screens, a bowling alley and a video arcade. Besides McDonalds and Café Coffee Day, it also houses Firangipani, a magnet for the suburbs’ pub-hoppers. In 2007, New Link Road rolled out the red carpet for yet another swanky multiplex - Cinemax, which was part of the Infinity mall. While the latter drew hordes of suburban shopaholics, Cinemax grabbed a fair share of Fame’s eyeballs.
Real estate prices shot up as the area became hot property for commercial establishments. Plush residential complexes like Raheja Classique straddled the Andheri skyline. And a clutch of mid-level eateries and cafes lined the street – a haven for Bollywood strugglers, eager to get spotted.
Resident Rachna Dastoor (28), witness to the area’s rapid development, remembers staring in awe at the huge lights blazing across the night sky in the summer of 2002. “I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew it was something big,” she says. She was right. It was the launch of the Mumbai’s first multiplex; one that not only defined an area, but changed the way a city saw movies.
(A weekly column that looks at how a pioneering or iconic structure has changed the face of a locality)