'Rahul' is backSince I don't remember the theatre in Bombay where I saw the Sunny Deol starrer Arjun (my first ever in front of the big screen), I consider Rahul Theatre in Pune as the place where I first saw films. Since we didn't go to many films then, it was an uncommon treat of sorts to go to Rahul for a Sunday matinee. I particularly remember watching a lot of classic Chaplin films, including The Gold Rush and One AM.
Later in life, when we came back to Pune, Rahul (along with the likes of Mangala) was still at the top of the pecking order when it came to city theatres. DDLJ was watched there. Soon, each college morning for 4 years, Rahul would be on my way to COEP. The two listed movies for the week would have their names spelt out in block letters outside (just one, if it was a real blockbuster). A particularly fond memory was seeing the names Satya and Hyderabad Blues unchanged for several weeks in 1998. Even then, I remember realising something had changed in Indian cinema. I also remember watching Lagaan soon after the exams that concluded our COEP stint in 2001.
In a couple of years, the multiplex revolution had swept through the city, led by City Pride, and followed by Inox. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was the last movie I saw at Rahul. Soon, the 5-screen E-Square hungrily towered over Rahul next door and that was the end of Rahul. For about two years, Rahul has been under construction. There was no announcement outside and it wasn't clear (to me) whether the place had been sold or was being refurbished or was changing professions. Last week, I saw Rahul open, without any fanfare, now apparently a little multiplex of its own, with at least two screens. This means it has gone the Mangala route, and can perhaps survive a little with the benefits that a multiplex can claim.
Whether this will make any real change to its current position - I do not know. The difference was stark in the last days: the service was ordinary compared to the new waves of "plush service" around us, and no wonder that the mall-tiplexes of the city have magnetically drawn people towards them. Still, a little crumb of nostalgia survives. I wonder if they still serve the expensive cabbage-stuffed little samosas. Does anyone know?