Liberty For All
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There's very little that has changed about Liberty Cinema, New Marine Lines. The art deco design adorns its facade while the interiors — with high ceiling, big columns and red wall-to-wall carpet — offer an old-world charm. That the cinema hall was once the most glamorous destination for film premieres — Raj Kapoor, Mehboob Khan and Sunil Dutt screened their films here first — is a fact that is both known and celebrated. However, over the last decade, its business has suffered due to the opening up of several multiplexes across the city.
"It isn't easy maintaining a place like this. So we're running on losses," says owner Nazir Hoosein, who resides on the cinema hall's vast property in New Marine Lines. The biggest setback for single screen owners like him is the 45 per cent entertainment tax. However, without taking names, he reveals that the cinema is getting by with "the support of its patrons".
Still, the thought of redeveloping or selling off this property, situated in a prime locality, is far from the 70-year-old's mind. Instead, he's planning to use the space to promote art and culture. He is in talks with several institutions to host various events. The cinema hall tied up with the Alliance Franciase de Bombay for a film festival which took place in June. This was followed by a glitzy soiree where SWISS and Narendra Kumar launched a 2012-2013 calendar. Most recently, Liberty took the independent decision to plan Music at Liberty, an evening of alternative music featuring three artistes, including rap band, Microphon3. "We are adding more to our existing schedule and drawing newer audiences," says Hoosein. The hall is currently showing Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum and next release, Jism 2.
Named Liberty to celebrate India's independence — the construction of the theatre began in 1947 — the hall was one of the first to show Hindi films, exclusively. This was a decision taking by Hoosein's father, Habib. The senior Hoosein had made his money in the 40s through a slew of theatres — many of which were tents with nothing more than a projector and screen. "He thought of consolidating the business by opening a big hall," says Hoosein.
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