The iconic Prachi cinema has gone for a makeover with the food court on the ground floor turning into a retail outlet. Before the Sealdah cinema reopens, the outer façade will get a facelift. A reduction in the number of seats is also on the cards.
There have been rumours about Prachi going the Metro or Mitra way for survival. However, Prachi’s owner Vidisha Basu told TOI that she is neither “selling” nor “renting” it out. “Prachi will reopen in a new avatar under the same ownership. I have taken a franchise of M Bazaar. Its retail outlet will be on the ground floor where my food court used to be. Our cinema, which was inaugurated by my grandfather Jitendra Basu in 1948, will get a new look with a modern touch while retaining its heritage value,” she said. However, Prachi will reopen only after the government gives permission and there is a steady flow of content.
During its heyday, this cinema has hosted multiple important screenings and premieres of Bengali films with the likes of Bidhan Chandra Roy, Satyajit Ray, Soumitra Chatterjee, Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen in attendance. On Uttam Kumar’s personal request to its owner, the first Hindi film screened there was ‘Chhoti Si Mulaqat’ in 1967.
Talks about renovating the cinema had begun in December 2020. A week before that, her husband, Sanjay Mitra, passed away. “Every Puja, we would go to my sister’s place in Gurgaon and then drive to Badrinath. Sanjay had a massive cardiac arrest the morning after our darshan in 2019 and was shifted to a Gurgaon hospital,” Basu said.
He gradually recovered after being in a comatose state for two-and-a-half months. “Single screens don’t give revenue. My sister and I have decided to renovate and run a remodelled Prachi as a tribute to our ancestors’ memories. Besides, we have a responsibility towards the staff,” she recollected.
The idea was to find a sustainable revenue model without only depending on its nostalgic value. However, destiny had other plans. “One afternoon, everything went still. Sanjay had another cardiac arrest,” she said. That was a week before Prachi’s renovation was supposed to begin. The renovation plans had to be kept on hold. If the bereavement was tough to handle, so were the challenges of bringing up a seven-year-old daughter single-handedly and functioning as a middle-aged woman in the patriarchal world of cinema. “Tagore’s song ‘Bipade more rokkha karo’ and Rani Rashmoni’s life gave me strength to fight it out and save Prachi. I live with Sanjay’s memories and immerse myself in work. The renovation work started in February end this year,” she said.
Basu now regularly shuttles between Gurgaon and Kolkata to look after the theatre and her family. “When a theatre is shut for so long, so many things need repair. During Amphan, the building sustained multiple internal and external damages that needed thorough repair. The building is still under renovation. Once we replace all the seats, we will be able to understand the exact occupancy,” she said.
Source: Times of India