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The end of the flashback

It’s been almost 30 years since Leena Shah watched Laawaris, a tear-jerker starring Amitabh Bachchan and Zeenat Aman, at the drive-in cinema at the Bandra-Kurla Complex.

mumbai Updated: Mar 07, 2010 01:13 IST
Purva Mehra & Bhavya Dore

It’s been almost 30 years since Leena Shah watched Laawaris, a tear-jerker starring Amitabh Bachchan and Zeenat Aman, at the drive-in cinema at the Bandra-Kurla Complex.

The cinema has been out of use and in disrepair for many years now, but each time she drives past, Shah (46), a Bandra-based housewife, points in the general direction of the drive-in, recounting the experience to her children who’ve never seen what lies behind the thicket of mangroves, but know the story too well.

On Saturday, the derelict drive-in relived its former glory perhaps one last time before it is redeveloped by Maker Maxity, a new real-estate development project by the Maker Group. The state government land has been leased out to Maker, which intends to convert the space into an “extensive mixed-use development”.

While the space will not continue in this form, the group is tight-lipped on exactly how it plans to use it. “We do not know the exact form or shape it might take in the future. We are still working on that,” said a representative of the group. “There is no finality, the place has always been progressing.”

By way of homage to this iconic venue, the developers have planned a cutting-edge art showcase comprising video, digital art and sculpture by contemporary artists such as Dayanita Singh, Bharti Kher, Sudarshan Shetty, Sakshi Gupta and Anup Matthews Thomas.

“We wouldn’t like to use the words ‘last performance’, or look at it as an exercise in nostalgia — we simply want to celebrate the space for what it was and is,” the Maker group representative said.

At the edge of this expanse of land heaped with heavy machinery and construction debris, the crumbling cinema building still holds up the bleachers it had for its audience.

In place of the movie screen that this building once faced, are five glass-front office complexes, which are part of the Maker Maxity development. And this unconventional setting is being readied to house the interactive, multi-format installations curated by the Bangalore-based Galleryske.

The art lies strewn across the ground and first floors. Outside what used to be the box office is a poster for Hera Pheri, the last film screened here.

“The idea was to accentuate the building, not hide it — to integrate the art with the building,” said Sunita Kumar Emmart, Galleryske’s owner and curator. Thus, for instance, a video installation of children’s toys is projected on to a large JCB — a piece of building equipment — protruding into the ground floor.

“A lot of what we have is video and dramatic work — this was, after all, a place for moving images,” pointed out Emmart. Among the pieces is a series of coal sculptures that will be set alight, and a piece titled The Party is Elsewhere, in which at a given moment, a hammer will crash into a table full of glasses to symbolise the end of the festivities.

But that’s not all the drama. Also featured is Project Bandaloop, an international troupe of aerial dancers from the US, who will defy gravity from the glass of those office buildings.

Shah, a regular at the drive-in, can’t imagine it in its new avatar.

“It was the family’s favourite picnic spot before the couples and mosquitoes took over. We used to sit in the car and listen to the dialogue on headphones. Food vendors came at intervals and you could even buy the ticket in the car. It was a unique cinematic experience,” she said.

A wide cross-section of

city experts have said the exact date of the drive-in’s opening is not known. In case you do, write in to the reporter at her email ID.