CHENNAI: On the day when his beloved theatre, or rather, his second home as he likes to call it, showcased its last movie, Surya-starrer 24, senior citizen V Raghavendran stood before the portrait of nadigar thilagam Sivaji Ganesan and reflected for a second. Shanti Cinemas, owned by the late actor’s family, has enjoyed a relationship with Sivaji like none of his peers.
Hence, it was natural for Raghavendran, a die-hard fan of the actor, to visit the theatre before it is brought down and developed as a commercial complex. His first ever movie experience at Shanti was Paava Mannippu (1961), a Sivaji-starrer, at the age of just seven. What followed then became a ritual, for whenever a Sivaji movie released, the resident of Triplicane would spend two nights at the theatre. “At Shanti, you should see the celebration for every nadigar thilagam movie. His rasigar mandram (fan club) members would deck the entire place with cloth banners and colourful graffiti. No other actor enjoyed more popularity here.”
Having documented all movies screened at Shanti from 1961 till 2010, he reels out an impressive statistic. “Around 85 Sivaji films were screened here, of which six celebrated silver jubilee and 35 films were screened for over 100 days.”
While it is generally assumed that all Sivaji films were released in Shanti, Raghavendran recalls an interesting episode from the by-gone years. Back in July 1964, a Hindi movie, Sangam, starring Raj Kapoor and Vyjayanthimala was released. Such was the movie’s popularity that it was well received by the Chennai audience and ran for 188 days. “In September, Puthiya Paravai was released. But surprisingly, the Shanti management didn’t take Sangam off the screens,” says Raghavendran. Sivaji Ganesan had to refurbish Paragon theatre on Wallajah Road and release the movie there.
Though the structure that houses Shanti will soon be demolished to be reportedly replaced by a multiplex, Raghavendran has one desire. “I hope one of the screens at the proposed multiplex is reserved for yesteryear classics,” he says. The theatre management, including the manager, refused to comment.
First movie Paava Mannippu
Inaugurated by then chief minister K Kamaraj on January 12, 1961, Shanti theatre, with a total capacity of 1,212 seats, was the first
AC theatre on Mount Road
The first movie to be screened was a Telugu- Tamil bilingual, Thooya Ullam (Sacred Heart) that starred Nageshwara Rao
The first Sivaji movie to be screened was Paava Mannippu (clemency) directed by A Bhimsingh on March 16, 1961
On October 11, 2006, Kamal Haasan opened the Sai Shanthi Theatre within the complex
Famous Movies Screened
Prabhu-starrer Chinna Thambi ran for a record 205 days with three daily shows
Rajnikanth-starrer Chandramukhi ran for a record 202 days, also with three daily shows. After that period, the movie was screened continuously for 808 days as a noon show, a record!
Hindi movie Sangam (released in July 1964) ran for 188 days and was a major hitMalayalam movie Ee Nadu (1982) ran for more than 100 days