After 50 years, it’s curtains for Bengaluru's iconic Cauvery theatre

Inaugurated on January 11, 1974, with the screening of Dr Rajkumar’s 'Bangarada Panjara' (1974), the Cauvery theatre marked its 50th anniversary in January 2024.
Cauvery theatre being demolished to make way for a commercial complex
Cauvery theatre being demolished to make way for a commercial complexPhoto | Shashidhar Byrappa

BENGALURU: Curtains have fallen on yet another iconic theatre, Cauvery, nestled in the bustling heart of Sadashivnagar in namma Bengaluru. The theatre, which played host to an array of films, including blockbusters spanning multiple languages over its illustrious history, shut down on April 19.

From the 30-week marathon of the Telugu sensation Sankarabharanam (1980) to the 22-week reign of the Bollywood classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) and the 12-week saga of the Kannada film Premada Kanike (1976), starring Dr Rajkumar, the Cauvery theatre was a cultural hub for cinephiles from all backgrounds. Even Kamal Haasan’s Indian (1996) graced its screens for over 100 days, alongside numerous other Kannada films marking a successful run till the last film, Kantara (2022), which enjoyed a successful 50-day run at its box-office.

Inaugurated on January 11, 1974, with the screening of Dr Rajkumar’s Bangarada Panjara (1974), the Cauvery theatre marked its 50th anniversary in January 2024, amidst fanfare and nostalgia. However, a decision made a decade ago ultimately sealed its fate. Prakash, who took the legacy of the Cauvery theatre, built by his father Narasimhaiah, reflects on the inexorable march of time and the harsh realities of a post-Covid world.

No show for months & unable to cover expenses, theatre shuts shop

“With time, we must adapt,” says Prakash. “The pandemic dealt a severe blow to our theatre business, which has been the case with single screens. Despite screening films in multiple languages, empty seats became a common sight. Our final screening, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, released on April 10, barely lasted a week, leaving us with meagre earnings of Rs 60,000. From January 2024, we had to deal with ‘NO SHOW’ boards. Over the last few months, we were unable to cover even our monthly electricity expenses.”

Prakash also points to the rise of OTT platforms as a major factor in the theatre’s demise. “OTT platforms offer convenience at a fraction of the cost,” he explains. “Despite ticket prices ranging from Rs 150 to 200, audiences prefer the comfort of home viewing,” says Prakash, who is now gearing up for a commercial complex, as he feels it potentially will help them earn tenfold of what they have earned so far.”

Among the countless patrons who graced the Cauvery theatre, one name stands out -- Puneeth Rajkumar, says Prakash. “Puneeth, who stayed in Sadashivnagar, was more than a regular visitor with his family, and this theatre was often his other home. He would stroll in for the 9.30 night shows,” he recalls, adding, “Puneeth had his own preferred box, where he enjoyed watching every film.”

Though its physical presence may fade, the spirit of Cauvery will endure in the hearts of all who experienced its screen magic.

‘Films can’t pull 50 people’

Exhibitor and owner of Veeresh Theatres, KV Chandrashekar, says there is no option at all. Cauvery theatre, which once boasted of having 1,300 seats, later reduced the number to 900. However, the number of people coming to watch movies drastically dropped, becoming one of the main reasons for its closure.

Explaining about the shift in cinema consumption, he says while single screens like Cauvery could only screen one Hindi or Kannada film at a time, multiplexes offer a variety of languages under one roof. “Multiplexes can shift screens to running films, unlike single theatres,” he adds.

Chandrashekar also highlights the bureaucracy involved in cinema construction compared to commercial complexes. “Cinema requires approval from six authorities, while a commercial complex needs only BBMP’s permission,” he observes.

Reflecting on Cauvery’s past glory, Chandrashekar questions, “Despite once attracting at least 5,000 people on a daily basis in five shows, today’s films fail to draw even 50 people in any show. How can it sustain?”

However, Chandrashekar offers a glimmer of hope, mentioning Prakash Narasimhaiah’s plans to convert Cauvery into a commercial venture with a multiplex on top, but it may take time.

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express