Kolkata: The reopening of Malancha, a prominent single-screen theatre in Tollygunge has triggered a row on questionable safety standards being followed in various cinema halls in the city and has irked Priya Cinema owner Arijit Dutta. Malancha, according to its owner Amar Roy Choudhury, had wound up operations after its last show of actor-director Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam 2 was screened on 14 August. The show attracted less than 50 viewers. Employees of the theatre were verbally informed of the closure and assured that all their dues and adequate compensation would be paid off.
Roy Choudhury, however, has now clarified that the hall was closed for renovation and would reopen from 31 August. Navaniat Singh’s Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se and Amar Kaushik’s horror-comedy film Stree will be screened at the theatre.
But what has irked Priya Cinema owner Arijit Dutta is that Malancha is being allowed to reopen without any clearance from the fire and electricity department. It may be recalled that a fire broke out at Priya Cinema on 5 August night. The West Bengal Fire and Emergency Services (WBFES) had ordered a temporary closure of the hall until the completion of forensic investigation and receipt of no-objection papers on resuming operations from Kolkata Police and Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC). WBFES, subsequently, recommended a number of changes to the floor plan of Priya Cinema including shifting of offices and food kiosks. The theatre has since been shut.
Speaking to the media, Dutta said, he is extremely disappointed that all rules and regulations are to be maintained by Priya Cinema only.
It has now been revealed that Malancha never had a proper electricity connection from the beginning.
Roy Choudhury admitted to the media that they have no electricity department clearance to run the theatre. When Malancha was built in 1979, electricity board officials and civic authorities allowed them to install a supply transformer in front of the hall. A few years back, CESC officials informed them that the transformer has to be sifted 60 feet away from where it was installed. The infrastructure cost in this regard is approximately ₹6-7 lakh. The theatre owners also have to pay for the 120 feet long two-way underground cable required to transmit power. That’s a huge expenditure for a single-screen theatre which usually doesn’t get more than 15 viewers for its shows. None understands the predicament of the owner, Roy Choudhury said, adding that they will reopen the theatre sans the requisite clearance.
Eastern India Motion Pictures Association chairman Ratan Saha told the media that the fire department has served notices to several theatres. It’s not financially possible for single-screen owners to carry out the recommendations. It’s surprising that Priya has been ordered to close operations while Jaya cinema hall at Barasat was allowed to continue with its regular shows, even after a fire broke out inside the theatre on 10 June, Saha recalled.