Delhi’s Chanakya theater and its ‘demise’ two years ago

the first film screened here was Mera Naam Joker in 1970, the last was TZP..
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One of Delhi’s most famous cinema theatres Chanakya will screen its last shows. The two acre plot, where Chanakya has stood for nearly four decades with Nirula’s, has been returned to Delhi officials, who plan to auction the property for a new multiplex.


It was the theatre that launched a thousand teenage relationships. A quick meal at Nirula’s next door and then a movie at Chanakya was an irresistible first date.

Especially because in the 80s, it was the only cinema that showed big Hollywood movies.

“I have been coming to this place for the past decade or so. I am feeling extremely sad,” said a regular cinegoer.

Chanakya has also stood the test of time in an age of multiplexes because it’s much cheaper. The front stall ticket costs Rs 30 as compared to tickets at a multiplex.

“Chanakya is unique in its own way. There are affordable eating joints around, the ambience is good,” said another movie buff.

And then there are fans who aren’t on a budget but will miss the cinema nevertheless.

“I watched Chak De here and I don’t even remember how many films I have seen here,” said Sheila Dixit, Delhi Chief Minister.

Kamlesh Khanna, sister of theatre owner has to say goodbye to a theatre owned by her family for generations.

“I remember seeing the first show of Mera Naam Joker with my father Vishwant Khanna and Raj Kapoor. Raj Kapoor then touched my father’s feet because no hall was ready to screen his five hour long film and now everything will end,” said Kamlesh.

“It’s like life and death for me. I can’t talk,” said theatre’s owner Rajesh Khanna.

The theatre, which opened on December 17, 1970, with the premiere of Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker will now be bidding adieu to nearly four decades of film screening.

For all cinegoers especially the ones brought up in Delhi, Chanakya cinema will now be just reduced to memories alone.

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23 Responses to “Delhi’s Chanakya theater and its ‘demise’ two years ago”

  1. [“It’s like life and death for me. I can’t talk,” said theatre’s owner Rajesh Khanna.]

    The owner’s name couldn’t be more poignant..

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  2. I do have lot of memories associated with Chanakya, from roaming to dating , it was my first choice in Delhi, Hap crowd, beautiful girls, Hot millions in premise are few attraction towards it. Apart from this Nehru Park near this chanakya is best place to spent time with your GF.

    campus are is still remain same even after demise of theater, still you find much crowd of boys and girls.

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  3. Yeah Chanakya gone and so has Nirula’s. For the nostalgic few, these are big losses. That said, Delhi has a good record in preserving its single screens, so far. Chanakya and Priya used to mostly screen English films anyway.

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    • I saw – Iss raat kee subaha nahi with my then GF there, with hardly 10 people, but ya you are rite, they mostly screened English movies.

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      • by the way Rocky I have these theater posts permanently in the sidebar but whenever you do have a chance you should check out all the Bombay theaters for Aarkayne’s wonderfully nostalgic and moving writings on these. I plan to collect his musings in a post at some point with links to the original theater posts.

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        • Speaking of the sidebar, that is a superb shot from “And the Ship Sails On”… would be great to see a larger version…

          also like the juxtaposition of the three Pokiri/Wanted posters in the sidebar.

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  4. Chanakaya for movies ,Nirula’s for food and yashwant place for leather jackets used to be one cool outing.

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    • I’ve heard a lot about Nirula’s but couldn’t find the right image..

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      • Nirula’s was the undisputed hangout place for the Puppies( Punjabi yuppies) LOL !!
        The CP and the Chanakya one had more western food whreas teh one in Karol bagh served more Indian food.
        the China garden in CP Nirula’s had the best chinese food.
        and their 21 icecream flavor was a big hit.
        when i went to India last year, the quality has really gone bad and the hep crowd has moved on to Mcdonalds and Pizza Hut etc.

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        • “hep crowd has moved on to Mcdonalds and Pizza Hut etc.”

          yeah it’s like the move from Thumps Up to Coke (or single screens to multiplexes). I always found this sort of thing regrettable. But I said it a few times and I was told that it was easy for me to say it since I was getting all of this living in the US! There is a certain aspirational aspect to these things and I certainly don’t blame anyone for wanting to have that ‘lifestyle choice’. At the same time I find the ‘uprooting’ of various authentic and singular ‘native’ traditions in this onslaught of globalization (read:’Americanization’) a bit disturbing as well. It is certainly true that for the ‘outsider’ a lot of this appears as charming exotica and one is susceptible to this structure. But what bothers me is not simply the replacement of one ‘world’ by another but the fact that the latter just seems less rich than the former. And this has nothing to do with autobiographical reasons or preferences of any kind. The world I often celebrate in this sense when it comes to India is a world I have never had any direct access of in terms of growing up in a certain milieu and so forth. ‘Experience’ in life is never only about what one lives through in a literal sense.

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        • Rocky: a friend form Delhi had told me that when I visited I should go to Nirula’s and Nizam ke kaathi kabab in Connaught Place. Really liked the latter, but found the ice-cream at the former missable…

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          • Q – the icecream at Nirula’s was great when the only other choices one had were – Kwality and vadilal.
            at one of the audits in CP we were given a lunch allowance of Rs. 15every day ( had to show the reciept) there were days when I would spend the entire allowance on the Icecreams.
            PS- It shows now in my Pot belly ! LOL !!

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          • Nizam’s Double Chicken- Double egg roll is simply amazing !!

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          • Yeah, nizam’s was damn good. But then, in general, if you eat non-veg Delhi has incredible food. Simply out of this world…

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    • added another Chanakya image here..

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  5. ajay pal Says:

    Hi fellas
    My late father was posted at WAC An air force command in 1987 near dhauls kuan subroto park .I as a teen used to flunk my class n go to the nirulaas have a pitza n a nutty buddy then to chanakya .the movies i watched were ,the women in red,the predator,aliens,john carpenters the escape from newyork and many many more.i still miss that old chanakya.unfortunately today waht remains is money and more money in the end what u need is do gaz zameen thats all.good luck doston. jai hind.

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  6. Bergedorfer Says:

    I left Delhi 16 Years ago.Since 70s I have been visiting this Cinema Hall.Now sitting out here in Europe and at times in America.I feel sad.Because there are umpteen memories attached to this Particular Location.History is being Demolished.Greed has no limit and Respect for Aesthetic and Relics.Statesman Building Demolition happened.While I was still residing in Delhi.Delhi City and Its History is Doomed.I am glad that I will never Return back to Witness the Continuity of Corporate and Privatization Destruction in the City of my Birth.Let Modi Jees and Sonia Jees,Rahul Jees or Kejriwal Jees and Its other Directed Brainwashed Supporters and Citizens.Decide Its Fate.

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