Civic body, Kolkata Police traffic wing shoot down shoe store plan in place of Elite cinema | Kolkata News

KOLKATA: Movie buffs of the city, alarmed by the news of Elite making way for a footwear store, have heaved a sigh of relief – for now. A proposal was sent to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation seeking permission to convert the cinema into a store while retaining the retro fittings and some old pillars.
However, the Municipal Building Committee has rejected the plan. Movie buffs are happy that for the time being the cinema structure can be saved from demolition since the traffic wing of the Kolkata Police has also objected.
“Though we knew some of the provisions of the KMC building rules won’t allow construction of a major shoe store on SN Banerjee Road, we had sent the proposal to the Municipal Building Committee. The matter was discussed at the meeting and after an objection was raised by the traffic wing of the Kolkata Police, we decided to give it a fresh look. Now it appears that giving a nod to such a proposal will be next to impossible,” said a KMC buildings department senior official.
What has surprised single screen lovers is the fact that Elite does not figure in the city’s list of heritage buildings despite the cinema’s illustrious history. According to a KMC official, when a survey was on to identify the city’s heritage structure and prepare a gradation list in the mid-90s, the task was done in a hurried way. “The survey reflected personal choice and whims of a section of the experts. So, some prominent structures were excluded from the list,” said a civic official.
Photographer Bijoy Chowdhury, whose calendar titled ‘The Melody of Single Screen in Kolkata’ has pictures of the city’s single screens, is appalled by the way Kolkata is callous about preserving these buildings. “It is a shame that Chaplin was demolished. Not a brick remains of the oldest single screen of Kolkata. Mitra made way for a shopping mall. Now, Elite too is hanging in the balance. I don’t understand why we talk so much about preserving our art and culture when old cinemas are not even considered part of our heritage.”
Elite’s former senior operator Jayanta Choudhury said, “I am a licence-holding senior operator. I renew my licence every year from the government. With single screens being demolished at regular intervals, our entire profession is at stake now. Does architectural splendour only matter when it comes to considering a building as heritage? Does the history of a cinema not matter at all?”
Elite, previously known as Madan Theatre and Palace of Varieties, it was initially meant for ballroom dancing. The name was then changed to Prabhat in 1938. In 1948, it reopened as Elite with the screening of ‘The Unconquered’. It was during this time that the theatre’s ownership shifted from the Madans to Empire Estate. Initially, Elite screened English films. Later, Hindi movies were screened too. Satyajit Ray had attended the premiere of Aparna Sen’s ’36 Chowringhee Road’. Amitabh Bachchan and Sanjeev Kumar had come during ‘Sholay’. The dip in sales prompted closure in June 2021.

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