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Fire at Nandan stalls all shows

blaze 20 minutes before buno haansh credits

Smoke from AC ducts forced an emergency evacuation on Monday afternoon and an indefinite halt to all film screenings at Nandan, the city’s culture hub.

Dev-starrer Buno Haansh was being screened before a packed Nandan I audience on the first floor when the hall was filled with smoke and the screen turned blank and the hall plunged into darkness. Moments later, six hall employees rushed in screaming: “Fire, fire.”

“Spectators panicked… some stood on the chairs, some jumped over. There was a scramble to get out of the hall. Some tripped and fell while rushing down the spiral staircases outside the auditorium,” said Rochisnu Biswas, a regular at the 29-year-old Nandan.

The “minor incident”, according to authorities, happened around 3.30pm after staff at the projection room on the fourth floor reported a burning smell. Soon after, the room was engulfed in smoke. The fumes travelled through the AC ducts and filled the auditorium on the first floor, 20 minutes before the end of the movie.

Thick black smoke could be seen billowing out of an air duct on the terrace.

“The reason is not known but it looks like a leakage in the cable line and a short circuit combined to trigger the fire. The junction point inside the concealed wiring, linked with the AC duct, caught fire,” said G.P. Ghosh, the fire and emergency services director.

Ghosh said the fire could not be seen from outside since the cables were insulated. “But the smoke came out of the various openings.”

Nandan staff members switched off power supply to the building immediately after the fire was spotted and sprayed fire retardants on the burnt cables and fissures till firefighters reached the spot and took over.

Actor Ranjit Mallick, a member of the managing committee, filmmaker Haranath Chakraborty and singer Indranil Sen rushed to Nandan and had a four-hour meeting with the auditorium authorities and fire and police officers.

“The incident happened from a spark in the sound installation room. Amplifiers and wires will have to be changed. Technicians will come and inspect tomorrow. We are hopeful that all loose ends will be fixed in no time and the hall to be up and running in a day or two,” said an official present at the meeting.

Buno Haansh was the day’s first show, starting 1.30pm, at the 980-seater hall. The next show (Highway, starring Koel Mullick and Parambrata Chatterjee) was at 4pm, followed by another show of Buno Haansh at 6.15pm.

Nandan has had its brush with incidents, “minor” or otherwise, that point to poor maintenance. In April 2011, a portion of the false ceiling came crashing down between two shows. Two days later, a fire broke out on the ground floor of the building and the double blow forced-shut the auditorium for months of repairs.

Monday’s was the second fire incident at a culture hub in a month after the one at the Academy of Fine Arts during the staging of Suman Mukhopadhyay’s Shunya Sudhu Shunya Noy.