Gandhinagar locality is one of the oldest localities of Bangalore and is the centre of trade, commerce, entertainment and tourism. All the old business streets like Chickpet, Balepet, New Tharagupet, Avenue Road, Cottonpet, Raja Market and so many other hubs are in this locality. It separates Bangalore North and West from Bangalore South and East and hence acts as the main link between these zones.
Despite so many important factors, this locality became popular mainly due to a record number of cinema houses that were located on the main road, as well as the surrounding roads. In fact Gandhinagar was and still fondly called ‘Majestic’, the name it got from an old cinema theatre that was located here. Bangalore being a cosmopolitan city, movies of all South Indian languages and of course Hindi were screened in all these theatres. Since the city has no riverside or seaside or any other kind of get-away entertaining spots nearby, the main pass-time for Bangaloreans was watching movies!
The whole road used to get a festive look when new blockbusters of leading stars were released. Huge billboards were put up, decorated with flowers and lights and sometimes film-crazy fans used to perform pujas to their stars by offering milk and fruits! These theatres were the common man’s main stress-busters, as they entertained people of all classes! While the poor people could afford the front rows, middle class people could afford the rear classes and balcony seats.
I still remember how certain films ran for months on end like Dr Rajkumar’s Bangarada Manushya, which was screened continuously for almost two years in the States Theatre. My memories of watching Bobby, Sholay, Abhimaan and many such popular movies in these theatres, after waiting for hours to buy tickets, are still fresh. People budgeted at least for one movie a month and went to the theatre with excitement.
The theatres were the main landmarks in the locality and we always referred to States or Majestic or Gita or Sangam or Abhinay or Himalaya to direct people to addresses. Suddenly the scene started changing. In came the television and people reduced their visits to theatres. Theatre was no longer a profitable business, especially after the huge malls and shopping arcades entered the scene.
Thus a majority of these small theatres have been replaced with shopping malls. It is sad to see so many leading theatres which entertained lakhs of locals for decades are no longer functioning. Kalpana, Gita, Minerva and the like vanished from the scene. In fact, Majestic, which was the main landmark of the locality is also gone.
This is not just a small event in the history of the city. It is the harbinger of a totally different culture, which has snatched away a cheap tool of entertainment from the thousands of ordinary people. While people of all classes were welcome in all these small theatres, today movies have become so expensive that only the rich can afford. The posh malls keep out thousands of commoners, who fear even window shopping there, because they are frequented only by the rich people.
Just like this, commoners of Bangalore are gradually losing so many more simple pleasures and comforts. Huge shopping centres like ‘Reliance Fresh’ and ‘More’ are mushrooming in all localities in place of small neighbourhood Shetty or Kaka Stores, which served us for decades. Small retail outlets are losing their battle against the high-end retail chain stores in the posh malls. As I walk along Sampige Road in Malleshwaram, I am shocked to see so many retail outlets with no takers, as the crowd now flocks to the Mantri Mall! Many of such outlets are closing down.
Life has indeed changed a lot. The middle and upper classes have no problem in adjusting to these changes, as their children, who are employed in IT sector are well supplementing their incomes and they are excited about the huge malls and multiplexes, where a single ticket costs Rs 200 or more. Who cares about the majority of the locals, who cannot afford all this? Their simple lives have been totally disrupted.
Housing within the city has also become a very expensive affair and hence these people are pushed out to the suburbs, as that is where they can afford housing. They have to travel miles in the jam-packed buses, to reach their work-places/colleges/schools. In the name of making travel easier, thousands of trees on all road-sides have been felled and hence these common people do not have the pleasure of walking under shady trees, especially in the summers which are getting hotter year after year! ⊕
I am not entirely in agreement that the theaters disappearing is sad thing. They were not particularly “heritage” buildings. Poor quality buildings, with worse still maintenance, low earning potential, but occupying prime real estate. Not a bad idea at all to lose them. However, what is sad is our rather narrow view on addressing the entertainment needs of the middle class only and ignoring the fact that there is a large market to capture by providing quality entertainment to other sections of society. Pity that everyone is so blinded by the size and the spending power of the middle class that no other sections are even visible at this point or being catered to.
Good article, I remember going to Majestic and standing in long line to buy movie tickets.
Development is good as long as it is well planned and regulated. What is the use of living in a mansion and worrying about going for a walk late in the evening. Development must be beneficial for the poor and rich.