I live in Dover Lane whenever I am in Kolkata because that’s where my house is. Priya Cinema, therefore is part of my territory in the city. Convenient to just walk down, the theatre has been a part of my journey as a film viewer. But the hall was always shoddy despite the fact that the owners are fashionable and the cultural elite of the city. I rued over the fact that though they would keep a vintage car in the causeway each night, which we could see when we evacuated the theatre after a night show, why the windows in the staircase landings were always broken and the toilets were worse that the municipality washrooms. These, put my mind off the owners and had it not been for my mother, I would have really accosted the owners for what I thought was public misdemeanour because they kept public amenities in such a dirty state.
One could still tolerate the Priya cinema in the 1980’s and even the 1990’s but after the era of the multiplex, one would expect the owners to get their act together and emerge in a much corrected avatar. Alas, that was not to be, for their hairdos and cosmetics went up, so did their ostentation but the ladies toilet dropped from being dirty and shoddy to being a mere enclosure cordoned off from the public eye by a green curtain !! This is the way the Bengali cultural elite, celebrity wannabes so-called adapted to the new age of the multiplex!
I am not surprised that the inquiry, after the fire in the theatre, revealed not only poor maintenance but wilful miserliness in running airconditioners, elevators and what is worse, accessory utilities pertaining to fire control itself. The problem lies in the idea of culture; real social class would have looked at the inner organization of space, its aesthetics, its hygiene, its safety. Crass upstartism looks at media publicity, Page 3 and outward paraphernalia aimed at generating awe, but remains horribly hollow. Shame owners of Priya Cinema.