Urvasi Theatres celebrating golden jubilee tomorrow; its Managing Director goes down memory lane on the eve
“The show must go on,” insists Grandhi Viswanath, the man who gave film buffs in the city the joy of watching movies sitting in the cosy confines of a multiplex for the first time.
Referring to the crisis in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Viswanath is confident that the magic of the big screen will not vanish. “People will return to cinema theatres because nothing can be a substitute for the joy a cinema theatre gives,” emphasises the Managing Director of the Poorna Pictures Pvt. Ltd.
Poorna Pictures owns Urvasi Theatres, which is gearing up for golden jubilee celebrations on Thursday (December 10).
Started on December 10 in 1970 by his grandfather G.K. Mangaraju who produced the first Teugu film and was also the first to start a film distribution system in the composite Andhra Pradesh, the Urvasi Theatres has weathered the vagaries of the trade, he says.
Matinee idol, the late N.T. Rama Rao, inaugurated it and the action-packed Hollywood film Mackenna’s Gold was the first show in the theatre.
His grandfather Mangaraju constructed a cinema theatre in 1930 in Visakhapatnam and named it Krishna Cinema, later it was changed to Poorna Theatre. To spread the joy of this mode of entertainment, he constructed more of them at Vizianagaram, Parvathipuram and Chodavaram among a few other places.
Mr. Mangaraju produced the first Telugu talkie film ‘Bhakta Prahlada’ along with veteran director of the times C. Pullayya. Sati Savithri in 1933 in Calcutta and Dasavatharalu in Pune were his other films produced under the banner of ‘Quality Pictures’ primarily because there was no organised system for distribution in Andhra Pradesh then.
The distribution office was shifted to Vijayawada in 1940 and its name was changed to ‘The Poorna Pictures Private Limited’. In 1945, his son G. Kamaraj (Mr. Viswanath’s father) took over the business.
“During a particular period, over 100 films crossed 100 days of viewership in our theatres. They include Pandinti Kapuram, Nippulanti Manishi, Ladies Tailor, Aswini, Matru Devo Bhava, Hindi films like Bobby, Tezam and Khuda Gawah and English film Tatanic,” recalls Mr. Viswanath.
Thinking ahead of times, Mr. Viswanath sensed that conventional single-screen cinemas may lose the race to multiplexes and he razed down Urvasi, Menaka and Ramba theatres making way for the state-of-the-art Inox multiplex, a treat to the film buffs who ravenously devoured their favourite flicks here.
Speaking about challenging times, he says in the late 80s, the taxation of notional income imposed on theatres by the NTR government gave tough time to the sector. “Heavy taxes forced many theatre owners to reduce the seating capacity of their halls,” he says, adding: “The much-needed relief came in 2005 when Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy realised our plight and scrapped the tax.”
It has been a roller-coaster journey, says he walking down the memory lane. He points to an adjacent room full of a collection of shields and trophies that capture the golden era of the Telugu cinema, and says “On this important occasion, the only wish is to add to this memorabilia.”