No Netflix. No YouTube. Those were the days when movie-goers used to wait in long queues outside the booking counters at theatres to get tickets to movies of their favourite cine stars. The excitement was palpable – the huge cut-outs, the first-day crowds, the velvet curtains going up, not to mention the cold sandwiches with a generous spread of mint chutney and those egg puffs. Those were the days when movies offered us total entertainment, when the internet had not invaded our homes and zapped all action.
Secunderabad, home to some of the iconic theatres in the country, was well-known for the sheer number and good upkeep of cinema theatres for long. Out of the many theatres that screened Telugu, Hindi, English and even Malayalam movies, many landmarks have now gone missing. These were literally landmarks because the locality would always be referred to by the biggest and most well-known theatres there.
From Sangeet to Odeon, while some of these have been razed down due to poor upkeep, many of them have been turned into commercial complexes, making them compatible with new technology. Here is a list of some of the iconic standalone theatres in Secunderabad that were, at their peak, movie-goers’ paradise.
Sangeet and Anand: Located at Sangeeth X Roads, Sangeet 70mm was the landmark cinema hall that first bought Hollywood movies to the city. Over five decades old, Sangeet was the first cinema hall in Hyderabad to install Ultra Stereo Optical Sound in 1994 and later the Digital Theatre System in 1995. For the movie lovers of Secunderabad, this was where they first devoured English classics such as Gone with the Wind and Falling in Love.
Hollywood’s Camelot was the first film screened in the theatre while the 1994 Bollywood blockbuster Hum Aapke Hain Kaun ran for one year in morning shows.
The theatre land was on lease for 40 years before the existing management purchased it in 2003. The theatre closed operations in 2008 and has since been stuck in a prolonged renovation.
Anand Theatre, located on Secunderabad’s SD Road, was the Hindi-speaking cousin of Sangeet. The theatre was demolished in 2012.
Zamrud: One of the oldest and grandest in terms of its location, Zamrud was located right in the middle of Abids in Koti and usually screened Hindi movies. Residents of Koti recollect the huge movie posters, of course hand-painted at that time, that were displayed all over and were the talk of the town.
Zamrud, better known as Zamrud Mahal Theatre, was built in the 1940s and was one of the theatres where the Nizam and a select few watched movies. The theatre sadly vanished without a trace.
Tarakarama: The very mention of Tarakarama 70mm conjures up visions of sleazy films, both the foreign variety and Indian made. This theatre, located in Kacheguda, was also famous for screening B-grade Malayalam movies of the time. Opened in 1978, NT Rama Rao’s Akbar Salim and Anarkali was the first film released in the theatre. The movie ran for a record 525 days.
The theatre was damaged in 1991 when Congress activists, following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, torched it damaging the seats, interiors and other equipment. The theatre underwent a major overhaul in 2013 and reopened as Asian Tarakarama Cineplex, which screens only regular movies.
Maheshwari and Parameshwari: These relatively newer twin theatres came up in the 80s and soon became a landmark in the Kacheguda area. Glitzy in their decor and architecture, they were best known for the escalator, probably the first in public space in Hyderabad, which became almost a tourist attraction those days. Much to the dismay of movie buffs, the twin screens gave way to a swanky multiplex in 2010 after they were demolished and revamped as Maheshwari Parameshwari INOX.
Liberty and Dreamland: Liberty Theatre was so popular that the bus stop and the junction of the Basheerbagh-Tank Bund road and Himayat Nagar came to be known as Liberty. Classics like The Sound of Music and Guns of Navarone enjoyed a fair share of re-runs here. The theatre was also famous for its classic old-fashioned architecture. It screened lots of English movies which later degenerated into B-grade English movies.
Similar to Liberty was Dreamland, which screened many a English movie in the 1960s but later started showing only shady movies. It was later transformed into a prayer hall and is now on the verge of giving way to the elevated expressway to Hakimpet.
Sterling and Skyline: These twin theatres, a major landmark in Basheerbagh in the 1990s, were the Hollywood movie buff’s paradise. There was ample parking space and the famous eateries near the theatre were an added attraction. Many English blockbusters like Chicago, Titanic and a whole lot of Bond movies enjoyed great runs here. Basic Instinct ran for close to a year in Sterling.
The theatre was shut down in 2005 to give way to high-rises.
Odeon: The complex contained Odeon 70mm, Odeon Deluxe and Mini Odeon. The three theatres at RTC crossroads were an entertainment hub and popular release centres for Telugu blockbusters for decades. In 2006, the theatre made headlines when two people were hurt in a crude bomb blast inside the theatre. The agitated crowd damaged the furniture and window panes of the hall after which the theatre remained shut for a long time. A few years later, it went the Maheshwari-Parameshwari way, and was converted into a multiplex.
There are many other notable mentions, including Ajanta, Natraj, Farheen, Deepak, Sudarshan, each with its own chunk of history.
Speaking to TNM, Sunil Narang, a distributor with Asian Cinemas, says that people in Hyderabad are pride-conscious and unlike in other cities love watching movies in single theatres.
“Though many cinema halls have been converted into multiplexes, efforts are on to revamp the existing single theatres in the city. If provided with better screens, technology and comfort in watching movies, people will definitely frequent these theatres as nostalgia still holds strong in their minds.”