A car honks loudly as another tries to manoeuvre into the road from the narrow parking of a restaurant in East Street.
A couple of two-wheeler riders try to squeeze past the narrow gap between the two cars. A few choice cuss words cut through the night, harsh and stinging. The Albert Edward Library lies by the side, a large structure, dark and silent.
And next to it is the Victory Theatre, once known as Capitol, old and imposing.
Creating an impression of the Colonial era, the cinema hall was a haven for those growing up in the 70s and 80s. It was easily accessible for those living in Camp and the adjoining areas.
It offered both Bollywood and Hollywood films but tended more towards the former. But it was the atmosphere of the theatre which made viewing a film a nice experience.
It exuded old world charm, the seating still reminiscent of a bygone era. The old building housed the Victory snack stall where the selection of goodies, including samosas, sandwiches and soft drinks making the interval something to look forward to.
And just walking distance away was the West End. What struck most about the West End was its sprawling layout. There was a restaurant to the left of the theatre, selling non-alcoholic drinks off the tap, the ginger ale a favourite of many.
The theatre itself was old but well-maintained. There was a full length mirror on the stairway leading to the balcony where a quick glance would not go amiss.
Ah, the seating – huge cane chairs which made it an experience to remember. There was always a scramble for the balcony front row seats where one could stretch the legs on to the balcony railings for extra comfort. Couples often took the back seats for privacy as the projection room jutted into the viewing area and restricted the seating to only a few.
But like all good things it ended with a huge concrete structure coming up in its place.
However, Alka Talkies still remains, and like the Victory, still maintaining its old structure. Along with the West End, it offered Hollywood movies regularly only breaking the trend occasionally for the late Dada Kondke’s offerings.
The latter’s films meant big bucks for the theatre and the film wouldn’t budge for months on end. Alka was indeed very popular with the young college crowd who came up the bridge from Deccan Gymkhana and elsewhere.
Then came Rahul and Natraj, boasting a 70mm screen and special sound systems. Rahul again proved very popular with students, the morning shows at 9am very convenient for those who were prone to bunking.
Both Rahul and Natraj revolutionised the watching of films, making it a grand visual and audio treat.
For Hollywood film buffs, there was also a theatre called Vijayanand. Nestling at the edge of the city’s Red Light area, Vijayanand showed a lot of films in the morning show slot, albeit some of them hacked down to the bare minimum.
The Old City was full of quaint old cinema halls like Prabhat, Vijay etc where the Marathi film industry thrived. Some of them still exist.
As multiplexes now reign in the city, the occasional trip down memory lane are still offered at these old theatres, allowing addition of some modern amenities of course.
It will be certainly worth turning the clock back to an old era once more.
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