| A promotional programme for Planet of the Apes, where Nari Avari had a role. Nari uses his father’s name, Eric, in professional life.
Darjeeling, Aug. 21: He is the local lad who has made it in Hollywood but sadly the town where Nari Avari grew up cannot watch his exploits on the big screen as the curtains have come down on both theatres, ironically once owned by his family.
Nari’s father Eric Avari owned Rink Cinema and Capitol Hall, the only theatres in Darjeeling, until 1984 when he sold them off and headed for New York.
Nari, his youngest son, who always had a penchant for acting, started off in small stage and TV shows and finally made it big in Hollywood blockbusters like Mummy, where he plays the librarian, and other movies like Planet of the Apes, Stargate, Sandler’s Deed, Beast of War and 13 Warriors.
The Avari family had owned Rink Cinema since the early 1900s and in 1921, they took Capitol Hall on lease from Darjeeling municipality.
When the family left Darjeeling in 1984, the halls passed over to the Gargs.
That unfortunately was the time when cinemas across the country came up against stiff competition from television, which only worsened with the arrival of satellite channels, spelling the doom for several theatres.
Faced with bleak business, the Garg family dismantled the Rink two years ago and in its place, a swanky shopping complex, with two mini-theatres, is likely to come up by March 2004. The Capitol stopped screening films a few years ago and now stages musical shows.
Nari’s friends in Darjeeling like Rabin Subba, the director of Himali Boarding School, rue not being able to watch him in action on the big screen and that at the very place where he spent his childhood and youth.
“Though Nari has made a mark in Hollywood, which people from the hills can only dream of, he has been forgotten in his own town,” says Subba, who blames the lack of cinemas for the ignorance. Subba and Nari, who passed out of St Joseph’s School in 1969 and then joined St Joseph’s College, acted together in many plays during their student days.
“Nari was always a good actor and I remember him playing Mark Anthony in Julius Caesar in school. In college, we had acted together in Beckett, with Nari playing King John while I was cast in the title role,” says Subba. “We again acted together in Anthony Schaffer’s Sleuth.”
Nari had formed a theatre group in Darjeeling called Polaris in the early 70s and had conducted drama workshops in Darjeeling.
His friends, though few in number, remember him as a good actor and a good sportsman who had captained his school cricket team. “He was really fond of this place, but then destiny had different things in store for him,” says Subba. Nari has not come to Darjeeling since.