Even as actor Atul Kulkarni was mesmerising the full house audience at Bharatmata cinema with his stellar performance in the film Natrang, supporters of Marathi cinema gathered outside on Monday afternoon to protest the proposed closure of the cinema hall.
Marathi cine artistes also gathered to lend support to the protests, describing the 72-year-old cinema hall, located in Lalbaug as the maher (maternal home) of Marathi cinema.
Last week, the city civil court had given a green signal to Bharatmata’s landlords, National Textiles Corporation (NTC), to go ahead with the eviction and demolition of the theatre.
“How can you even think of Marathi cinema without Bharatmata?” said actor Vijay Kadam. “Where will our audience go to see the movies?”
Apart from Kadam, other actors like Smita Talwalkar, Sandeep Kulkarni and Suhas Bhalekar also voiced disapproval about the closure.
Bharatmata is the only cinema hall in the island city to exclusively stage Marathi films since its inception. The cinema hall has been the site of premieres of well-known Marathi films over the last few decades and even today runs to a packed house. Talking to Hindustan Times, Kapil Bhopatkar, owner of Bharatmata said that he would explore all legal means to stall the closure. “We have been running the show successfully and it is unfair to just evict us,” said Bhopatkar. The Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Chitrapat Mahamandal is also planning to seek state intervention in the matter.
Located on the premises of the New United mills, Bharatmata has been run by the Bhopatkars for the last 69 years. In 2002, NTC had served notice to the owners to vacate the premises. Despite the intervention of then speaker Manohar Joshi, NTC did not withdraw the notice, which was challenged in the civil court.