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Prabhat Talkies

Prabhat, the theatre which brought a ray of sunshine to Pune culture.

"Prabhat! That's the oldest talkie of Pune, about half a century old," is the first thought that enters the mind of Puneites on the mere utterance of its name. Though located on one of the most polluted and crowded roads of Pune in Appa Balwant Chowk, the place still retains its old identity.

I planned my interview with Balkrishna Damodar Bhide, who has been the caretaker of the talkie since 1971. I reached there around one in the afternoon and met a very warm and affectionate-looking Bhide. "This is the first one started in Pune. Then there were no other theatres for performing plays and other form of art and so Prabhat would give the exponents of art a stage. Eventually theatres for the sole purpose of staging plays were built and the talkie came to be known as the place only for films," he began.

Throwing light on the history of the place, Bhide continued, "The place where Prabhat stands today was once holding a Wada of Sardar Kibe of Indore, which ran a press called Dnyanaprakash. In 1926, the press caught fire and the whole place was burnt down. Later in 1933, a company called Prabhat Film Company moved into Pune from Kolhapur and set up a studio with the name Prabhat. Sardar Kibe set up a theatre with the help of this company and named it Laksmi Kibe theatre after his mother. All the films produced at the studio were screened at this theatre. Later the theatre came to be known as Prabhat."

"Earlier there were only silent movies. On September 21, 1934, an English movie 'Love me Tonight' ushered in an era of non-silent movies screened by an English talkie. In the same year, on 17th October, the first Marathi non-silent film Amritmanthan was screened. Since then, more than 600 films have been screened at Prabhat and over 30 movies have celebrated their silver jubilee here. The famous Marathi movie Maherchi Saadi ran for two years at Prabhat."

When asked about the development of the talkie, he goes on: "We have managed to keep with the times by building a dress circle and a balcony and also having cinemascope facility. The theatre has all that theatre-goers could ask for."

"Recently, the Government of India has started screening children's films produced by the Children's Film Society of India every Sunday. And to contribute our bit, we run the shows on no-profit basis by selling the tickets at a minimal amount of Rs.5/- to all.

Ours is an old dingy building, with congested seating arrangements, and no air-conditioning, but in spite of all this, the place still holds a special place in the Puneite's heart!  And will continue to remain there for years to come."

Address: Prabhat Theatre, Appa Balwant Chowk, Near NMV Boys High School, Pune 411 030. 

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