Thursday, 1 March 2012

 Manju Cinema, Ludhiana (1945-present)

I have wanted to photograph and document for some time, the old cinemas of Ludhiana. Driving past them week after week, I look at the buildings around them being demolished and new developments coming up and I dread to think what will become of these unloved and unappreciated beauties. They are survivors in a city that is changing, where their historical significance is completely lost on everyone and it seems like it is only a matter of time before they fall prey to some developer who will want to build yet another mall in the city.

With the coming of the PVR and Wave Cinemas, I am sad to say that even I haven't been to any of these to watch a film in a long time. Due to the lack of an audience, the only films they do screen are often along the lines of 'Pyaar ka Karz', 'Masti Express' and 'Husn Bewafa'. Some of these cinemas are not even operational anymore and have been derelict for a few years. The last time I went to an old cinema was in 1995 to watch 'Akele Hum, Akele Tum' with my friends on my 11th birthday. We booked a box, and during the interval my mum sent us snacks and cake. Gosh, how times have changed! You were able to do that in those days, today your snacks are taken away by security before you enter the cinema and you're forced to spend of overpriced popcorn and sweets.

What I liked about these cinemas is that they were 1 screen halls with the 4 standard shows a day, the 10:00am, 1:00pm, 4:00pm and the 7:00pm. You didn't have to check the papers for odd timings and you weren't spoilt for choice. Today, despite the 20 screen multiplexes, the luxurious velvet seats, our cinemas lack soul. They are run off the mill multiplexes that could be anywhere in the world. You could be in any city and have the exact same cinema going experience, which is incredibly sad.

These old cinemas didn't follow a standard tried and tested template of a chain cinema and each one was unique. The attention to detail, the architecture, the hand painted posters, the signage, even the railings and the mini ticket office where someone would sell tickets from a tiny little window were what gave them their own individual character and personality.

I wish someone adopts these great buildings and gives them a new purpose. They could be cultural centres or museums, concert halls or auditoriums! So many possibilities.


'Pyaar ka Karz' at Manju Cinema

 I like the oval wheeled windows and hourglass features on the side of Preet Palace, but one of the best features is the Punjabi sign on the front of the building in the exact same font as the English sign.

Preet Palace, Ludhiana

The 'Preet Palace' sign in Punjabi 

Chand cinema, Ludhiana - Jalandhar Highway


The oldest cinema in Ludhiana - Raikhy Theatre opened it's doors in 1933. Unfortunately, the only films they show here now are b grade Bollywood movies. 

'Husn Bewafa' at Raikhy Theatre, Ludhiana 

Below are photos I took last year on a trip to Lucknow. Some beautiful hindi fonts and very well maintained cinema buildings as compared to the ones in Ludhiana.

'Masti Express' showing at Sahu Cinema, Lucknow
Umrao cinema, Lucknow

 Tulsi cinema, Lucknow

Novelty Cinema, Lucknow