It’s not ‘The End’ for This ‘Single-Screen’ Cinema in Assam

Here’s how the Anuradha cinema hall in Guwahati got a new lease of life during the lockdown.

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Video Input: Anjana Dutta

Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia

“Big screen and big sound is the ultimate experience. And we’ll be alive till the day people enjoy this experience.”
Chinmoy Sharma, owner, Anuradha cinema

This is the magic of cinema that gave Chinmoy Sharma, the owner of the Anuradha cinema, the confidence to go ahead and give a new lease of life to this iconic cinema hall in Guwahati. And he did this during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Chinmoy is lucky that he got a chance to keep the cinema alive. A 2019 KPMG Media and Entertainment Industry Report predicts a bleak future for the single-screens in India. The reports says that for 200 new multiplex screens that come up every year, about 150 single-screen cinema halls go out of business.

Anuradha cinema hall in Guwahati
Anuradha cinema hall in Guwahati

(Photo: Anjana Dutta)

Anuradha – A Part of Assam’s Film History

Anuradha is the labour of love of Phani Sharma and his wife Rina Sharma. They purchased a piece of land in Guwahati in 1968 and the cinema hall opened on New Year’s Eve, 1971 with the screening of Hema Malini-Dharmendra starrer Tum Haseen Main Jawan.

Phani Sharma built Anuradha cinema in 1971
Phani Sharma built Anuradha cinema in 1971

(Photo: Anjana Dutta)

In January 2021 Anuradha turned 50. The past one year was really though for the business of cinema in India, in fact there was no business at all due to the lockdown.

Phani Sharma’s son and current owner Chinmoy could have shut down the cinema permanently, but he remembered what his mother had told him when he took over the business.

“When my parents asked me to take over the cinema hall, I decided to do a quick survey. I found that turning it into a godown would be more viable. But my mother told me that my father came from a village and with lot of hard work he built this cinema. It was his passion and we should try our best to keep it alive.”
Chinmoy Sharma, owner, Anuradha cinema hall

Lockdown – A Time to Rebuild

On 15 March 2020, the government of Assam ordered all cinema halls to shut down but around the same time the Assam Film Finance and Development Corporation gave the owners of Anuradha a grant of Rs 25 lakh for renovation.

During the lockdown, Chinmoy Sharma sent all the employees of Anuradha back to their hometown and villages. But the nine-month-long lockdown also gave him the time to revamp the cinema hall completely.

“I had two aims, one to reduce the number of seats to almost one third from the original capacity of 1,000, and use the space below the complex for commercial and rental purpose. This will help the business to be more viable and the hall can sustain itself.”
Chinmoy Sharma, owner, Anuradha cinema hall
Interiors of Anuradha cinema hall in Guwahati
Interiors of Anuradha cinema hall in Guwahati

(Photo: Anjana Dutta)

The owners of Anuradha feel that the time’s not up for the single screens yet. As long as there is an audience for the big picture and big sound, people will come to a single-screen cinema.

Clearly, it’s not ‘the end’ of the story for this single-screen yet.

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