Bengaluru’s Beloved Cauvery Theatre Bids Adieu after Half a Century of Cinematic Joy


Amidst the throbbing heart of Bengaluru, a chapter in the city’s cinematic history has come to a close. A little over three weeks after marking its golden jubilee, the storied Cauvery Theatre has dimmed its lights for the final time. For generations of Bengalureans, this landmark was more than a mere building; it was an institution where shared experiences and collective joys brought the magic of film to vivid life.

From its inception on January 11, 1974, opening with the Dr. Rajkumar starrer “Bangarada Panjara,” Cauvery Theatre stood as a beacon for movie enthusiasts. Once the quintessence of single-screen theatres on bustling Sankey Road, Palace Guttahalli, it offered an immersive, communal viewing experience that today’s multiplexes struggle to replicate. It was here that the last reel spun on April 20, following the final screenings of two Hindi movies, “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan,” and “Maidaan.” As the echo of applause fades, the hammers and drills take the stage, constructing what will soon be a commercial complex.

Prakash Narasimhaiah, the owner of Cauvery Theatre, expressed a conflicted sentiment as he closes the curtains on this nostalgic venue. “I feel sad to close it down but the collections have come down drastically in the last five years,” he disclosed. This decision is a resonant one, a mantle passed down from his father, Narasimhaiah, who built this legacy half a century ago. Prakash laments the seismic shift in viewing habits that has left single screens in its wake, accelerated by the ubiquitous rise of OTT platforms. “People now prefer waiting for movies to hit the online domains, a trend that cemented during the pandemic,” he noted ruefully.

Cauvery Theatre, occupying approximately 1.5 acres, was renowned not just for its expansive parking space but also its distinctive circular design. It shared a unique feature with few others, such as Abhinay and the shuttered Tribhuvan—the mini balcony. “Cauvery boasted the largest screen in Karnataka,” reminisced Prakash. With an initial seating capacity rivalling the monumental Kapali Theatre back in 1974, renovations in 1995 reduced the count, concentrating on improved comfort and the viewing experience.

Surviving the onslaught of multiplexes, Cauvery prided itself on maintaining affordable ticket prices that persisted through changing times. With a pricing range that was a draw for college students and cinephiles alike, it continued to be the hotspot for premieres of big-ticket Hindi and Tamil blockbusters starring legends like Rajinikanth and Vijay.

Harish Mallya, a film aficionado and consulting curator for the Bengaluru International Film Festival, recalls, “Cauvery was a preferred destination for film lovers from academic institutes like Mount Carmel and MES College, especially for major Hindi release events.”

The echoes of blockbusters resonate within the walls of the now silent Cauvery—with movies like “Roberrt,” “Premada Kanike,” “Sankarabharanam,” “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge,” “Indian,” and more recently “Kantara,” each drawing crowds that became part of the theater’s rich narrative. It was a place where the vibrancy of a packed auditorium added an unmatched dimension to the cinematic experience: a shared gasp, a collective cheer, an unforgettable memory.

Indeed, as Bengaluru transforms, the story of Cauvery Theatre arrives at its denouement. Analogous to the fate of other iconic landmarks such as Kapali, Pallavi, Sagar, and Tribhuvan, Cauvery’s cinematic journey concludes not with a whimper, but with the nostalgic applause of countless patrons whose lives it touched. Cauvery Theatre leaves behind a sepia-tinted legacy, a testament to a bygone era of filmmaking and film-watching—a bittersweet remembrance as the city marches inexorably into the future.

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