Balaka Cinema Hall | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 01, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 01, 2017

Cinema Sniper

Balaka Cinema Hall

Cinema halls were a prime source of entertainment for the Bangladeshi audience two decades ago. I have embarked on a journey to visit all the cinema halls in Dhaka, partly to experience the reason behind its decline first hand. This is “Cinema Sniper”, where I dissect cinema halls and their environment.

Balaka Cineplex is the first cinema hall I went to as a child. Even then, the business was booming and it was very difficult to get tickets unless you went there an hour ahead of show time. When I went this time, the scenario was astoundingly different. They were screening “Bhuban Majhi”, a film featuring Parambrata Chatterjee and Aparna Ghosh as the leads. Naturally, I was excited to see the film and thought that I would have be there very early to get the tickets. How wrong I was.

The plaza area outside the cinema hall was beautifully renovated, with ample space for a long queue of people. However, there weren't too many. The show time was at 3:30 pm, I bought the ticket for a mere 150 taka a minute prior and waltzed in. The hallway, to my surprise, was beautifully decorated. I stumbled upon some nostalgia-inducing posters of films that Balaka had previously showcased, and I watched them all as a child. The cafeteria was simple and even somewhat bare-bones, but the prices they offered were reasonable. I thought that they had done a brilliant job at decorating the hallway. I was also pleasantly surprised by their bathroom, which was clean and adequately supervised. However, my brief juncture of bliss did not last long, as I finally entered the cinema hall. The musty and pungent atmosphere reeked of old age and neglect. It smelled like an awful mix of vinegar and dried sweat. As the film started, I realized that the upper level (2nd Floor) of the hall blocked half my view. I had to secretly change seats to find a better angle. 

The film itself, “Bhuban Majhi”, was a pleasant experience. Parambrata's stellar portrayal of the conflicted musician in the middle of our Liberation War was praiseworthy, so was Aporna's amazing showcase of acting skill. To my dismay, half of the already small audience had left during the interval. The ones that were left were couples in the back row busy pleasing themselves. The awkwardness that ensued when the ticket checker marched in with a flashlight was phenomenal and arguably the most slanderous part of the day. I was glad that I had stayed until the film ended, as the story seamlessly integrated the three timelines to produce a gut-wrenching blow in the end. My viewing experience at Balaka Cinema Hall could have been a lot better. Balaka should use its ample resources and the incentive to make the cinema hall itself better, as that is where it truly counts.

Sadi Mohammad Shahnewaz

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