After a long hiatus of 16 years, the Gem Cinema has opened its doors to cinema lovers once again on 5 November with the screening of the movie, Sooryavanshi. While the older audience got to reminisce and relive their memories of the iconic cinema, the younger generations experienced the magic and grandeur of a single-screen cinema.
The Gem Cinema came into existence on 3 July 1964 and was inaugurated by then Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Mohan Lal Sukhadia, and Ram Niwas Mirdha, Speaker Rajasthan Legislative Assembly. Designed by Lakshmi Kumar Kasliwal in Art Deco style, this iconic cinema opened to the public on the 4th of July 1964 with the screening of the film, Pooja Ke Phool.
When the cinema opened in 1964, it was the 6th cinema hall in Jaipur and the first one to have a 70mm cinemascope screen with a stereophonic Todd-AO sound system. It had been equipped with Bauer Projectors and Klangfilm Audio Processor along with Isco Gottingen lenses. The cinema shut its doors to the public fifteen years ago in 2005 owing to the onslaught of the multiplexes.
A renowned jeweler, photographer, and vintage car collector, Sudhir Kasliwal is the present owner of the cinema. Overwhelmed by the emotional and nostalgic response he received from a large number of cinema-goers, Kasliwal set upon the task of restoring the cinema to its original glory in memory of his father.
Telling more about the landmark cinema hall of the Pink City, Kasliwal said “It is a very emotional moment for me to reopen my father’s pet project. I had been a witness to my father’s dedication, precision, and involvement in the design and construction of the cinema. Since we retained most of the primary staff even after we closed the cinema, the projection equipment and ventilation and cooling systems have remained in working condition”.
Kasliwal’s idea was to restore the cinema, not renovate it. Painstakingly over two years, the cinema was in the gradual process of restoration to its original glory. The digital projection has been added. The spacious galleries also have the provision for the display of art. Currently, the galleries are showcasing some evocative photographs of Rajasthan clicked by Kasliwal.
Old World Charm
In addition to the charm of the single screen, there are a plethora of other elements in the cinema hall which make it an absolutely one-of-its-kind experience for the audience. From the quintessential snacks in the interval like classic pineapple pastries, samosas and cream rolls to the colourful lights inside the theater as well as the dramatic opening of two curtains before the show begins have an appeal of the yesteryears. In fact, even the signs outside the washrooms have not been changed.
“We have staff members that are with us for the last forty years. Even the canteen is being run by the grandson of the person who first ran the canteen here”, shares Kasliwal.
Starting from just INR 100 rupees and going up to a maximum of INR 200, the prices of the tickets are also much lower than the present-day multiplexes. It is noteworthy that the hall can accommodate a whopping 1100 viewers together.
Honorary Secretary, Jaipur Chamber of Commerce & Industry and a movie buff, Ajay Kala said: “It is indeed a matter of great joy and happiness that the historic cinema hall of Jaipur, Gem, is opening its doors again for the city’s movie-loving populace. I can vividly recall seeing a large number of movies in this iconic theater. Watching a movie here was not just about seeing a film. It was about the whole experience of the customer-friendly theatre with one of the best sound systems, a unique screen, and most comfortable seats, not to forget the lovely samosas and pineapple pastries of the canteen. I compliment Sudhir Kasliwal for restoring and reviving this hall after a span of 16 years. My family and I look forward to watching the ‘Sooryavanshi’ here.”
A young movie enthusiast, Shailendra Singh Sisodia shared: “I saw only one movie here in the early 2000s. After that, it was shut and I always wanted to watch a movie here again. The re-opening of this theater is such a great addition to the heritage of Jaipur. Looking forward to watching a film here soon!”
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