Curtains come down at Nashik’s vintage cinema hall once used by Dadasaheb Phalke

The theatre began screening movies in 1906 and the current building came up in 1914.

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NASIK: The century-old Vijayanand Talkies in Nashik, the theatre used by father of Indian cinema Dadasaheb Phalke, has shut down owing to non-renewal of its licence from the state government. With 22 applications for renewal pending with the government, the iconic theatre has joined the long list of single-screen theatres to shut operations in the state.

The theatre has a special presence in the rich cinematic history of the country. The doyen of Indian cinema, Phalke, had screened his motion pictures using a projector and curtains tied to trees at the wada, which was later converted into Vinayanand theatre. This 103-year-old theatre continued to draw audiences till six months back, while several of its generation ended their run.

The theatre began screening movies in 1906 and the current building came up in 1914. Recognising its cinematic tradition, it was conferred the ‘Oldest Exhibitor in India’ Award by the President in 2013 for being one of the longest operating cinema hall in the country. Apart from its unique place in the film world, the theatre is also remembered as the venue where freedom fighter Anant Kanhere killed Nashik collector Jackson in 1909.

Vinaykumar Chumble, a fifth generation owner of the theatre, said that renewing the licence of the cinema hall has been an uphill task. “We have filed 22 applications in last six months to renew the licence of the cinema hall. I personally contacted senior home department officials and even the minister of state regarding the renewal. We have got only assurances. Ultimately, we have moved the Bombay high court and are waiting for final decision,” he said.

If the family loses the legal battle, Vijayanand Talkies would be the 15th single-screen theatre in Nashik to shut down owing to revenue crisis and complex policies of the state government. Two other old cinema halls in the city – Damodar and Madhukar theatre – owned by the Chumble family were similarly shut down six months back for the lack of licences. As a result, Nashik is left with just one single-screen theatre – Mahalaxmi.

“Mahalaxmi is the only single-screen theatre running in full swing in Nashik. We are fortunate enough to have fulfilled all conditions till date. Still, I am not sure when police will come and stop shows citing security reasons,” said Mulchandbhai Patel, owner of Mahalaxmi theatre.

DCP Vijay Patil said that the cinema halls were shut down because they did not have the necessary entertainment licence. “We have learnt that the present owners have applied for a new licence. We will allow screening of shows once they get the new licence,” said Patil.

But getting the new licence is not at an easy task. The changes in the norms for theatre operations and licence rules have forced the closure of most cinema halls in the city and the state. Nearly 230 single-screen cinema halls in Maharashtra have closed down in last three years, of which, 14 were in Nashik.

“Firstly, the cinema hall licence is non-transferable. In case of death of the licence holder, the legal heirs have to apply for a new licence. The latest state government rules state that the theatres must have air conditioning, fire safety and adequate parking facilities to get new licence. It is practically impossible for old theatres to install latest facilities and fulfil new conditions. As a result, hundreds of single-screen theatres in Maharashtra are facing closure,” said said Nitin Datar, President of Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India.

Single screen theatres in civic body areas cannot be redeveloped with other commercial uses. “The municipal corporations have demarcated the land of cinema halls only for entertainment purpose, and one cannot do any other business here. The owners are left with little option,” said Datar.

Fate of single-screen theatres in Nashik

There were 16 single-screen theatres in Nashik.

Vijay, Mamata and Regimental Cinema were converted into Multiplexes

BITCO, Prabhat, Sapna, Shivam, Hemtala, Ashok theatres were closed due to fund crisis

Vikas Cinema gutted in fire in 2014 and closed since then

Chitra Mandir, Anuradha, Circle theatre are closed for having insufficient facilities

Vijayanand, Damodar and Madhukar are closed sans renewal of licence

Mahalaxmi theatre is the only single screen theatre running in city at present.

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