Ajmer’s New Majestic Talkies to close down…
[couldn’t find an image of the theater but this is a hotel in its immediate vicinity that gives one a sense of the neighborhood.. if someone finds an image let me know and I’ll make the change..]
JAIPUR: Once a majesty, now it’s set to become part of history. It’s pack-up time for the New Majestic Talkies in Ajmer, Rajasthan’s oldest cinema.
It was started in 1929 by Erach Sukhia, two years %before India got her first talkie flick ‘Alam Ara’. Incidentally, ‘Alam Ara’ was first released in Majestic Cinema in Mumbai.
“My father-in-law (Erach Sukhia) had come from Lahore and wanted to set up a space for entertainment in Ajmer. It began from a rented tin shed and we ran silent movies. Musical instruments were played live to give background music,” said Major (Rtd.) Noshir K Marfatia, who runs the theatre.
Such was the commitment to the theatre, that when the talkie era started, Sukhia, who had no money to spare after procuring land and building the theatre, gave his wedding band to the engineer who set up the talkie machine. This love for Majestic was inherited by his daughter Gulnar Marfatia and she was keen to keep the movies affordable and accessible to the public of Ajmer even if they bleeded.
The talkie machine gave them the leverage to screen English movies. Speaking on the pre-Independence era, Marfatia said, “Britishers would come in their horse carriages dressed formally for the 6 pm show. The balcony used to be full and %hard drinks and snacks would be served in the 45-minute interval.”
Even though the trend changed in 1947, English movies continued to draw crowds and films like ‘The Poseidon Adventure’ (1972) and ‘Enter the Dragon’ (1973) ran to packed houses.
It seemed like most films screened here had a real life anecdote attached to them. The response to the longest-running film there, ‘Nagin’ (1954) was stupendous. It ran for 50 weeks!
Such was the impact of the big screen that workers would actually look for snakes while cleaning the theatre, thinking that the snake charmers in the flick would play Pied Piper in reality. The movie was so popular among women that the second class was reserved for them.
“When Raj Khosla, director of ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh’ (1971) came to Ajmer, he sat with the crowd somewhere between the third and the first class. After hearing cinegoers’ comments, who obviously did not recognise Khosla, the director said he had never experienced anything like this in his life,” remembered Marfatia with a smile. Many other directors also followed suit and got an uncensored review from the audience.
The talkies brought many films first to Ajmer, before they were released anywhere else in Rajasthan. The list includes ‘Bobby’ (1973) and ‘Sholay’ (1975). Sharing another anecdote Marfatia said, “When Ramesh Sippy visited Ajmer and saw ‘Sholay’ here, I introduced him to a person who had seen the film 62 times till then. He was so taken in by this fan that he asked the person to watch the movie for free till the time it was screened in the theatre.”
From running houseful shows, where people jostled for space even in passages, to the multiplex culture leaving several rows empty in the theatre, Majestic has lived its “own film” through the past 86 years. Now Marfatia has decided to close it down in the face of constant losses for the past 10 years. “The last show at the theatre will be screened on February 28.” A nostalgic Marfatia requested all those associated with the theatre to come and watch THE LAST SHOW. Contrary to the entertainment world’s famous line, for the New Majestic Talkies it can be finally said albeit with a heavy heart, the SHOW WILL FINALLY END!