Safire theatre and Madras……

Ravishetty is 70.  He lives with his family in New York.      He grew up in Madras (Now Chennai) for the first 35 years of his life.      He recalls his growing up days in Chennai.   Here is an interesting article on Safire Theatre that he shares with us.

“ To me,  somethings  come up when I think of Madras and my growing up days.   Safire Theatre,  Buhari Restaurant,   Woodlands Drive in,   Woodlands Hotel,  The Marina Beach…..  But Safire was a favorite rendezvous.   Many happy years spent with family and friends.

We used to cycle to Safire those days to watch English movies.   Such wonderful days.   The sun did not deter us.  There were no mobile phones to call and confirm as to who was coming.   We would all meet at a common place and then cycle from there.   A minimal parking fee for cycles that used to be locked with most primitive methods and stickers so that we could identify our cycles in the post movie rush.   And the new set of cycles for next show waiting to be let in.   Of course there were some 40 to 50 cars that could be parked anytime.    The roads weren’t that crowded ( the Anna Flyover wasn’t there).  

These days you don’t find cycle stands as most people use two wheelers or cars.  But the cycle stand in Safire theatre complex those days was large and hundreds of cycles used to be parked there.     Located on Mount Road (Now Anna Salai)  it was a go to place for youngsters and elders for watching English films.  The theatre screened only English films in the first few years.  It was the first multiplex in India.   There were many more first which I will relate to in my article.    It had three screens.   Each of them named after a gem / stone.   Safire,  Blue Diamond and Emerald.   Safire was also the first 70 mm screen probably in India at that time.  It had a huge balcony that could accommodate a few hundred viewers at any given time.   It had vestibule elevators and it was such a joy watching the road as the elevator was going up.  Its seats were a class apart and had pile carpeting.   For the elite, the theatre was one of the first to introduce private boxes where families and important (VIP) could view movies in absolute privacy with food catered in these boxes.  Slot machine dispensers were brought in for the first time in India.   The sound system was an experience.   Digital sound systems were a hall mark of the theatre.   Cleopatra ( first movie) and many other famous movies that include My Fair Lady,  Sound of Music,  Lawrence of Arabia,  and Poseidon Adventure were screened here.  The only other theatre in city that used to screen English movies was the Casino.

Blue Diamond and Emerald were smaller theatres with about 200 people seating capacity .  For the first time in India,  the concept of continuous movie shows was introduced.   In summer, with a ticket of Rs.2.50 we could hang out there and it was such a solace.   Of course,  we used to spend on the popcorn and other eats which were expensive.

There was a nice restaurant that served Gujarati food in the complex.   It was named “Navaratna”   Nine Gems was a discotheque that opened up at the complex.  Again a concept ahead of its times those days. 

It was bought under political pressure by a political party .  The theatre is now an open land and every time I pass the place,  a sadness fills me.  It was a part of my growing up like it was for many others.   Every time I pass by the area  the nostalgia followed by the sadness of the current state of the place leaves a lump in my heart.

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