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Star dies on plex birthday

- Born in 1939, cinema hall couldn’t keep up with times

The coincidence is so cinematic that it seems scripted. Sunday spells the end of the road for Star Talkies, Jamshedpur’s oldest single-screen survivor that opened in 1939; Sunday marks the first anniversary of Eylex, the steel city’s first multiplex.

The 755-seater Star Talkies screened its last show Jigar, a film starring Ajay Devgn and Karishma Kapoor, that released, hold your breath, 20 years ago in Diwali 1992. Faced with acute cash crunch, its management did not have money for movie prints of latest releases and screened old films with tickets priced at Rs 10, Rs 15 and Rs 20.

Multiplex Eylex is roaring with four new films — Barfi!, Heroine, Oh My God and Kamal Dhamal Malamal.

In the run up to 100 years of Indian cinema in 2013, this is hardly a symbolism to be missed. Single-screen dinosaurs are getting edged out by shiny multiplexes with more movie choices, cushioned seats and flavoured popcorn, never mind that some plex tickets cost 10 times more.

The pride of colonial Jamshedpur, Star Talkies was a dazzling landmark in Burmamines. Indian talkies had started with Alam Ara (1931). As dialogues and songs of Hindi films like Mahal (1949) becoming a rage, the Talkies — Jamshedpur, Regal and Star, established in 1936, 1938 and 1939 — did great business in the burgeoning steel city that needed its entertainment quota.

With Jamshedpur Talkies and Regal Talkies, Star Talkies was as much of a trinity as Dev Anand-Dilip Kumar-Raj Kapoor in the heady fifties and sixties.

There were rivals, of course. Basant Talkies opened in 1942, GT Cinema in 1952, Karim Talkies in 1957, Natraj Talkies, the most luxurious of them all, in 1975. In the eighties, there were two new players, Payal Cinema in 1984 and Shyam Talkies in 1986.

The death knell for most cinema halls for Jamshedpur rang in the late eighties. Television came to Jamshedpur in 1984 and with TV sets in every home, Doordarshan’s Hindi serials and the Sunday film became staples. Eminently watchable serials like Buniyaad coincided with some of the worst Hindi film offerings. No wonder films flopped like ninepins. Owners of halls were left with empty seats and huge taxes and maintenance bills.

Star Talkies struggled with old film prints. Then, in September 2012 it threw up its arms and sent a letter to East Singhbhum DC Himani Pande that the hall would be closed.

“It’s a vicious cycle. We can’t afford to screen new films and lose money on old ones. The best option was to close the hall,” Mumtaz Hashmi, chief administrator of Star Talkies, said, adding that Sunday’s shows earned Rs 1,375.

The two other thirties-born, Jamshedpur and Regal, have already folded up, one in 2000 and the other in 1988.

Payal Cinema and GT Cinema are doing well, though. Like the Big B, they have managed to reinvent themselves with time. Shyam Talkies in Parsudih is also managing the show. But the future seems to be Eylex.