Chhavi Mahal in Varanasi has an unusual philosophy and has built its reputation on screening re-runs
In an age where multiplexes and small auditoria seem to rule the box office, Varanasi’s Chhavi Mahal stands out for its old-world charm. Inaugurated on May 29, 1989, this singleplex is still known for screening re-runs to full houses. With a colourful history, it has maintained its reputation as the best stand-alone cinema in this city.
Launched with Aamir Khan’s debut hit, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Chhavi Mahal exhibits an assortment of films of all genres. Sandeep Sareen, who built this singleplex with his late father, is proud of the returns his cinema brings. “The enviable reputation of the enterprise is evident from the fact that Mukta Movies Distributors recently leased its booking rights on a contract basis,” reveal Sareen, who likes to think of his property as a social experiment as much as it is a business venture.
The cineplex is known for repeats dating back to the ‘80s and ‘90s alongside new releases. “It’s all about commerce! For instance, we discontinued Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai to re-run Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor starrer Talaash. The reason was because it would do better business as it was the week before Ramzan,” explains Sareen. However, re-runs include hits and flops from yesteryear and they have done astonishing business second time round.
As for its appearance, this cinema is impeccably done up with posters displayed in a glass case and blue seats in the foyer. Considering the nawabi ambience of the city, spittoons are placed all around, while the walls are sparkling white. The lower half of the wall is pale green, which contrasts with the brown granite flooring.
Two levels of the cinema mark entry points for separate classes, which include balcony, Dress Circle and Stalls. The Balcony includes 352 seats, while the Stalls and Dress Circle sections comprises of 666. A huge seating capacity necessitates a mammoth preview area but this does not hamper sound quality. A Dolby digital surround sound system ensures powerful, realistic output, and the screen is comparable to some of the biggest in the country.
Taking a step towards climate change ,Chhavi Mahal provides parking only for bicycles. “The premises are colossal and can accommodate larger vehicles but we promote only non-motorised transport,” smiles Sareen.
The concession stand offers an eclectic mix of munchies, besides the usual soft-drinks, coffee and a variety of packaged snacks. And ticket pricing is very affordable while also ensuring that the balcony provides a convivial setting for the more affluent family crowd. Balcony: Rs 40, Dress Circle: Rs 30, Stalls: Rs 20.
In times when single-screens have melted away, this one is still out there challenging the multiplexes.