The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, October 12, 2003
Lead Article

Running for 9 yrs & still going strong!
V. Gangadhar

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge has been running in Mumbaiís Maratha Mandir for nine years now
Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge has been running in Mumbaiís Maratha Mandir for nine years now

CAN a movie run for nine long years in a city, that too at the same theatre? This 'world record' has been set by Yash Chopra's eternal romance Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ), which has entered its nine-year run this month at the prestigious Maratha Mandir theatre in Central Mumbai.

Since October, 1995, when it was released as a daily morning show, DDLJ had grossed more than Rs 2.50 cr. During the first seven and a half years of its run, the film, which was exempt from entertainment tax, could be viewed for just Rs 13, 11 and 9. Today, the rates have been revised to Rs 20, 17 and 14. Maratha Mandir is one of the best theatres in the city, known for its comfortable seats, lots of leg room and airconditioning. Its ultra-modern sound system cost nearly Rs 70 lakh.

The enthusiastic viewers who've been flocking to the theatre are mostly porters from the nearby Mumbai Central station, where there is a lull in the arrivals and departures of trains during daytime. Says Raja Ghorpade, one of the porters, "My friends and I come to watch this film at least once a week. It is so relaxing and a good 'time pass'. I think we must have watched DDLJ more than 60 times."


Maratha Mandir is centrally located, quite close to the state transport bus stand. Visitors to the city from the districts drop in to watch the film when they have time to spare before catching a bus back home. Almost 50 per cent of the viewers have been casual visitors to Mumbai. "It is better to watch the film than to pass time out in the sun or spend money in a restaurant," observed a businessman from Sangli who had come to the city for some work.

Agreed Manoj Desai, the Executive Director of the theatre. "DDLJ is pure, wholesome family entertainment with excellent music. During weekends, when the house is full we get family audiences who had seen the film many times but still do not mind watching it once more."

I sat in the balcony and watched the film along with members of the working class, groups of students and some couples. They were quite familiar with the film, repeated its dialogues and sang with the hero and the heroine! Some of them even took a quick nap in between and asked their friends to wake them up for some special scenes.

The morning shows at Maratha Mandir had become so popular that DDLJ grossed more than most of the regular, newer releases. Recently, while 550 people turned up for the morning show of DDLJ, the figures for the next three shows of the regular release were, 237, 118 and 201! Talk of old being gold! Desai firmly believes that the low rates helped to attract audiences. The regular rates at Maratha Mandir---Rs 50, Rs 40 and Rs 30 for the balcony, upper stall and lower stall, respectively--- are the lowest in the area, where some theatres are charging over Rs 120 for balcony tickets.

Maratha Mandir has a rich history behind it. Started in 1952, it became famous with the release of the legendary film, Mughul-e-Azam. Old timers recalled how elephants were used to bring reels of the film for the inaugural show. The film ran for nearly four years and charged admission rates of four, eight and 12 annas!

The theatre's screened a number of hit films-- Johnny Mera Naam, Ittefaq, Khiladi, Mr India, Coolie Number 1, Sarfarosh and so on. Pakeeza had a slow start but when heroine Meena Kumari died during the first week's run, the film picked up.

DDLJ comfortably beat the earlier record set up by G.P. Sippy's Sholay, which ran for one year (regular shows) and another four years as the morning show at the Minerva theatre. At the rate it is going, DDLJ might complete a 10-year run next October. That will be a big event for Maratha Mandir!