“When was it closed?”
“Yeh badbakht 10 saal pehle band hua tha”, the roadside vendor replied
Its not financial challenge but our collective apathy towards heritage and arts and crafts in general which has caused single screen cinemas to run out of business.
The growth in trading activities around the port area fueled the conversion of residential buildings into workshops and godowns, eventually forcing residents to move to new localities. With the departure of original residents, old bookshops, cinemas and cafes found their survival impossible in changed landscape.The people who replaced the old gentry had little muscle and interest in maintaining these landmarks. Nigar Cinema is a casualty of this trend which is result of ill planning on the part of those in charge.
People tell me that Nigar Cinema has been shut for almost ten years. The building is used for variety of purposes now. As I enter, I see a lot of broken pallets which are used for storing seasonal fruits. A little further, right opposite ticket office was a hedge for keeping goats and sheep. There is a little office in front of the main hall where I find a chowkidar catching up on last night’s sleep. I see a lot of people taking crates of fruits inside the main hall and I follow them inside. There I am, inside one of the largest halls that would have been built in Karachi. There is a huge screen on my right and the gallery and projector room on my left, which I find locked and inaccessible. The entrances to the hall are through couple of huge doors on both sides. The doors are of simple but elegant design. There are no seats inside which were taken out to make room for storing crates and vendor carts.
I open the room on the other side and step outside. I find myself in a narrow gully and find a painter painting a huge canvas. This is the studio of Parvez Bhatti, Lyari’s Michealangelo, known for his portrait of Obama and his family. The painter introduce himself as Parvez’s son and tells me that his father is in Islamabad right now. The canvas that he is painting is for a photos studio in the vicinity.
To the other side of the gully is entrance to the basement. People tell me that there is a shrine in the basement which is older than the cinema. Someone tells me that it is due to the shrine that cinema could not do well. The basement is dark and the ceiling is hardly six feet high. The aastana is locked and people tell me that it opens after sunset.
Nigar Cinema is stuck in limbo. Just like a lot of other heritage buildings in the city. What’s next for them. The building is registered as a heritage building which at least protects it from otherwise imminent demolition, but is anyone going to invest in restoring it to its former glory? And would it be of any service to the demands of present day Karachi?