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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

iconic Shanti theatre of Chennai too closing down !!!

The habits, identity and culture of Cities keep changing !! ….. a few decades back, Cinema theatres were iconic symbols where common men thronged – Fridays would have new releases and a couple of days before that one would see wall posters everywhere.  People would stand long queues for getting that ‘first day – first show’ ticket ~ not so simple as we book tickets over the net ! In late 1970s and early 1980s,  a Rs.2.90 ticket for a silver jubilee film or that of the most sought after hero  was  what  people yearned for  !

Chennai has a long history of theatres and Mount Road was identified with threatres – from Shanti to Saffire – so many dotted the road.  According to Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema,  edited by Ashish Rajadhyaksha – Warwick Major opened the first theatre in 1900 – but by other accounts, it was in 1913, that  Warwick Major opened the first theatre in Madras in the present Philatelic Bureau on Mount Road, and it was titled Major Warwick Electric theatre.  Of the many -  Sun, Saffire, Anand, Star, Paragon,  Wellington, Chitra, Nagesh, Odeon …. Have all fallen by the side, yielding place to multi-complex [Saffire’s place was destroyed and remains barren though ! -]

In this city of Chennai, several important buildings once considered landmarks have become just memories.  Many of these old structures have been pulled down over the years to accommodate shopping malls, marriage halls or residential complexes ~ the Shanti theatre is following the suit !!

Not exactly, when theatres became Marriage halls or Commercial complexes,  the theatre owned  by thespian Sivaji Ganesan’s family, is to be redeveloped, though as a multiplex-driven entertainment hub.  According to newspaper reports, the complex, constructed by G Umapathy in 1956-57 and later bought over by Sivaji Ganesan’s family, will be replaced by a three-screen multiplex that would double up as a virtual gaming centre and retail hub, said Akshaya MD T Chitty Babu, who has signed a joint venture with owners of the property for redevelopment. The theatre, was  inaugurated by former CM K Kamarajar in 1961, screened 82 films of Sivaji. 


 It was the first air conditioned theatre in Chennai. The first movie to be screened on the theatre was a movie on lord Venkateswara.   Thooya Ullam was reportedly filmed here as also Kalpana, a Hindi movie.  Rajinikanth’s blockbuster ‘Chandramukhi’ ran for a record 888 days at Shanti, said a release put out by the promoters of the theatre.  The digitalised re-run of ‘Karna’ also ran so many days.  Shanti, spread over little more than an acre,  had capacity of more than thousand which was later divided into two – Sai Shanti opened in 2006. 

list of Sivaji films on the walls of Shanthi


Of the many movies that ran for months at Shanthi, reference must be made to “Karnan” the movie by BR Panthulu in 1964 based on Mahabaratha warrior.  It had Sivaji Ganesan as the eponymous character, leading an ensemble cast consisting of N. T. Rama Rao,  Devika, Savithri.   The portrayal by Sivaji is much acclaimed.  Here is a poster of the movie – courtesy : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Karnan_poster.jpg

Incidentally, in the photos taken a couple years back too, you see the same ‘Karnan’ – a  digitally restored version of the grandeur movie  was released in Mar 2012  to commemorate the birth centenary of Panthulu. It is the first Tamil film to be fully digitally restored.  Needless to add that the film ran packed houses for months… !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

3rd Mar 2015.

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