ANINDITA ACHARYA, Kolkata: At 5.30 pm on Thursday, the corridor of Roxy Cinema had an eerie silence. In the dim light of the On the Rox Bar, we noticed the dozen staff members of the 79-year-old single-screen theatre in Kolkata pondering their future. Their eyes full of despair, their heart filled with anxiety.
On Thursday, the curtains came down on Roxy Cinema, one of landmark single-screen theatres in Kolkata. The cinema was leased out to Bengal Properties Private Ltd. However, the lease was over and therefore, officials from Kolkata Municipal Corporation have sealed the theatre on Thursday afternoon, serving Roxy Cinema and 22 other occupiers of 4A and 4B Chowringhee Place eviction notice. KMC had leased it out in 1907-08.
Aritra Mukherjee’s Bengali movie Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti, starring Ritabhari Chakraborty and Soham Majumdar, was the last film which was screened at the iconic Roxy on Wednesday at 3 pm. Around 100 cine-goers had come to watch that film at Roxy, which had started as an Opera House on Wednesday.
An official from Bengal property said, “Since the lease period was over, we decided to handover the property to the KMC.”
Alongside the Roxy authorities, many traders and shopkeepers of the 11,000 square feet building are also staring at an uncertain future.
“KMC had told us that we would become direct tenants. But in 2019, the state government land acquisition and KMC authorities informed us that we would be required to vacate the place. But I have been running this shop at this location for 20 years. So, we want the Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim to look into the matter,” said Mira Tiwari, who runs the leather shop at Roxy complex.
Ashok Kumar Shaw, who has been running his shop in the adjoining building of Roxy Cinema since 1939, wants West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to intervene and solve the matter.
The once-upon-a-time Opera House, was converted into a cinema hall in 1941. The first film, which was screened at Roxy was Naya Sansar, which released in the same year. It starred Renuka Devi and Ashok Kumar, where he played a journalist.
However, Roxy became iconic when Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose entered the theatre to watch Ashok Kumar-starrer Kismet in 1943. The film ran for 108 weeks at Roxy.
With a sitting capacity of 730, Roxy had AC tower, Dolby Digital sound, and a 2K projection silver screen. However, that’s a thing of the past now.
For Sujoy Bose, manager, On The Rox bar, the greater worry is the eviction notice from KMC. “Nobody is willing to take our responsibility. But we have been working here for all these years. We don’t know what our future holds,” he said.
Bose, who has been working at the bar for 14 years now, informed us how Roxy was built during the British period and belongs to the grade two heritage property category. “We were told there was a tunnel below Roxy which was built during the British era. It was a fort and later turned into an Opera House,” he said.
With Roxy shutting down, Kolkata now has a kitty full of single-screen theatres like Mahua, Ujjawala, Mitra, Bharati, Chaplin, Minerva, Purabi, Purna, and others, which have failed to run in the era of multiplexes.