- by Deepa Krishnan
I went to Parel with my mom and sister, and on the way back, I photographed this building with metal grille-work. This is Sharda Cinema, Dadar; and the grille-work represents Sharada, the goddess of writing, the arts and all creative efforts.
Sharda Cinema has been around for four decades now. This architectural style - do I call it Bombay Deco? - was popular in the 70's, and perhaps even the 80s. But I don't think it continued into the 90's.
Sharda is a single-screen cinema. The arrival of multiplexes has seriously threatened the survival of single-screens in Mumbai. The multiplexes are more expensive, but they have a wider range of films on show, and they are co-located in malls, making them attractive leisure destinations.
Most single-screen cinemas are struggling. Many old city icons like Strand and Minerva, have closed down. Some like my neighbourhood Rupam Cinema in Sion have converted into multiplexes.
But some - like Sharda Cinema - have survived in the single-screen format by adopting digitization. Going digital means they can screen "first-day" releases without waiting for the old-fashioned analog movie prints to eventually arrive at their cinema (high costs of analog prints means that the distributor only produces a limited number of them, and they cannot reach all cinema venues, so smaller cinemas lose out on the attractive first-day or first-weekend business).
When I saw Sharda Cinema, the poster was showing "Brothers", a mixed martial arts Hindi movie with Akshay Kumar. The movie had been released that week, and was being screened for 3 shows each day of the week. Alongside this, for the 3:30 pm show, the theatre was also showing a Marathi film "Double Seat", another new release. Sharda also shows some hit Bhojpuri films. Clearly they understand the working class clientele of this neighbourhood in Dadar East. Sharda has 1150 seats and according to an article I read in Outlook, they're managing to keep their head above water with 50-60% occupancy. Good for them.
Will Sharda survive? Will the other single screens in the city survive? The jury's still out on this one. Many of them are still open only because they cannot be converted into an office complex, or a mall (the space was granted to them specifically for a cinema/arts venue). The only thing they can do is convert themselves into more vibrant theatre/arts venues and see if that will work.