NEW DELHI: Ferris wheel rides at Appu Ghar, afternoon shows at Shakuntalam theatre and evening dinner at Standard restaurant—these are all part of middle class life in Delhi, and recalled with great nostalgia. Appu Ghar is long gone, while swanky new restaurants have eviscerated Standard from memory. Come March 31, the curtains will come down on the last of the lot, the Shakuntalam film screen next to Pragati Maidan.
The theatre had the right crowd, perfect location and pocketfriendly ticket prices, but it doesn’t fit with the mandate of the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation, that of trade promotion, which is why it’s being shut down.
The decision to stop screening latest Bollywood movies at Shakuntalam has been ratified.
“I don’t believe film screenings and film shoots come under the category of trade promotion. Our job here is to promote trade and enhance values,” said Rita Menon, CMD of India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO). Films come under entertainment or culture, which is clearly not the ITPO’s objective. ITPO officials said, they have had to refuse several requests for business seminars and conferences due to the daily shows at Shakuntalam.
Pragati Maidan is a space for building business-to-business relations, with most of its fairs catering to industries like real estate, plastics and electronics.
She was however, quick to clarify that retrospectives of filmmakers and artists like Bhupen Hazarika which evoke nostalgia for film buffs and those seeking old-world-simplicity, will continue at the venue. Menon has also made it clear that Shakuntalam’s revenues didn’t lead to its closure.
However, during popular consumer fairs like the India International Trade Fair and Book Fair, film screenings may be arranged.
According to ITPO officials, another issue pertaining to Pragati Maidan is that its land-use in the L&DO records is still as a ‘district park’. Efforts are underway to change it to ‘exhibition ground’. With this in mind, they don’t want to be accused of allowing entertainment or commercial activity like film screenings to come in the way of trade promotion.
Weddings and film shoots had already stopped, and some of the restaurants are also likely to be closed—their leases will not be renewed. Plans are underway to develop some of the existing facilities to accommodate smaller business conferences and seminars.
A new conference facility will be developed at Phulwari.
“It was in the heart of the city and very accessible. While the new multiplexes began coming up, it maintained its old-world charm. The ice-cream carts outside were the perfect way to finish the outing. The wide open spaces around the hall, allowed us to sit there for some time afterwards,” reminisced media professional Aditi Sharma.
The Shakuntalam experience comes in the class of Chanakya and its Nirula’s restaurant, or Appu Ghar and Keventer’s milkshakes.
It’s a subtle reminder of Delhi of the 80s and 90s, when there were fewer cars on the road, and a drive to India Gate for ice-cream was a special treat.