Exploring Amba Cinema, the single screen theatre near North Campus and the people that make it.

The University of Delhi in general, and its North Campus in particular is like a brewery of cheap wine, brewing cheap thrills and sweet memories for the students that thrive in it. Kamala Nagar is one such prime destination, bustling with activity every day. On its outer edges, lie areas that start showing a family demographic rather than that of students. Just a few steps ahead of the market place’s ghantaghar (clock tower), and you’ll set foot to the gate of the only movie theatre in the campus area. This is Amba.

When I first arrived at Amba Cinema, I could see a diverse crowd before the evening show was to start. There were a couple of college couples, scattered all over the outer edges of the building, smiling sheepishly, waiting to exchange a kiss for a millisecond. Amidst this young love, I saw a small boy called Faizal pedalling an equally small bicycle.
He was cycling around, gazing at the movie posters with the fascination of a film connoisseur. As I stopped him for a conversation, he gave his verdict on the poster of the upcoming historical drama Manikarnika. ‘Bohot tagdi picture lag rahi hai. Par dekhke hi pata chalega ab.’, Faizal said. (‘It seems like a strong film. But I’ll get to know how it actually is, only after viewing’).

This little boy lives nearby and helps his brother at times, who sells vegetables on the street. Times aren’t easy for him but yet he smiles with his weekend entertainment when he comes to Amba with his brother. After all, Amba has two varieties of seats, wooden and recliner, both decently priced at 60 and 120 bucks (which is even lesser than what a bucket of popcorn in an ordinary multiplex would cost).

Amba has had a history with several generations of DU students now, as it has been more than fifty years since it was set up by certain old gentlemen Shiv Shanker Lall and Bhavani Shanker. The family runs the cinema till this day. Set up in 1963, the word ‘Amba’ (written in Devanagari) has survived, erected on a stand above the building, In the face of multiplexes, its single screen format has survived too in this part of the city.

However, it has accepted some modern changes along the way. The Dolby Atmos sound system was introduced a few years ago, as the staff says. And now, even English movies are being screened every once in a while, along with the usual Hindi ones. Hence, a cut out of Captain Marvel stood proudly, along with posters of Simmba and Manikarnika.

Turning it into a proper movie hall, the security has also been updated. The guards at the gate and the doors are hired on a temporary basis. However, nearly a year ago, the security scene reached a new level, with the controversial film Padmavat hit the screens. Rishabh Gogoi, a second-year student from Cluster Innovation Centre, recalls on how his experience was.
‘My first experience at Amba was remarkable as I had come to watch Padmavat. On the first day and the first show, there were at least three rounds of security checking before you actually sit inside. At one point, it even felt that there were more CRPF chaps than movie watchers.’

Talking about security, the hall is generally a quiet place without much ruckus. However, according to many students, the night shows are not advisable as the hall is rather filled with ‘uncivilised crowds’! Barring that, Amba Cinema is still a noteworthy landmark for the DU student. With a new outlet of H&M in Kamala Nagar, people are predicting that the wave of capitalism won’t stop till a privatised multiplex is set up. If that happens in the near future, some like Faizal and many more would still pray that Amba’s charm doesn’t die and it doesn’t shut down. Hope their prayers are answered…

Featured Image Credits: Rishabh Gogoi for DU Beat

Shaurya Singh Thapa
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