Grey and Gone

Shalimar, once a happening cinema hall, is relegated to pages of history

Shalimar is past its prime. Photo: Sana Amir
Shalimar is past its prime. Photo: Sana Amir

Not quite known to Delhiites in general and even film lovers, Delhi’s age-old Shalimar cinema, caught fire. Its screen, seats and part of the big screen were burnt. A bigger tragedy was averted as the cinema had downed its shutters following poor business. A grey structure, Shalimar cinema, located beneath the Ashram flyover, is a picture of neglect. Once a colourful building it is now bereft of colour and any life. Broken gate, burnt windows bring out the pathos.

Shalimar means ‘Abode or Hall of love’ in Sanskrit but looking at its dismal condition, it’s difficult to associate any such emotion with the structure. Naseemuddin, popularly known as ‘Miyan’, owns this cinema hall alongwith his brother Shamiuddin. Even he is not optimistic about its future, more so after the recent fire.

Naseemuddin reveals, “It was built before 1947. It has 485 seating capacity. Tickets were very cheap then. We had to close it as the business was not doing well.” The cinema for a while showed reruns. Then it downed its shutters. “Who will come to such cinema halls when there are new malls and plush multiplexes?”asks irked Naseemuddin.

The terrace of the building is covered with steel sheets and the remaining space like the parking area and the front portion of the hall has become a dumping ground.

Residents of the area express concern at its present condition. One of the shopkeepers in the area, Bhupinder Singh says, “Sound system of this hall was the best in Delhi. We protected it in 1984 riots when some wanted to burn it. It was closed for 17 years in between. But then it was reopened and Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurated it. Tezaab was the first movie to be screened after it restarted..”

“Now inside this idlers come and sit. All the valuable things, including chairs, have been stolen. People drink and smoke inside the hall.” In last week’s fire, there was smoke all over and thanks to prompt action further damage was averted. The owners are reportedly trying hard to sell it but there are not very many buyers.

(This article was first published in The Hindu-MetroPlus)


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