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Forget The Single Screens, Even Multiplexes Are Plunging Into Darkness

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Not long ago, Vishal Cineplex (Rajouri Garden, West Delhi) used to be a cinephile’s paradise. Having lived in West Delhi for over 2 decades, I have had the privilege of barging into the establishment on a not-so-lazy Monday afternoon. In all fairness, the cinema served as the ideal destination for those planning to ditch college lectures.

However, the emergence of multiplexes has taken the spotlight away from single screens. Back in the late 2000s, Vishal Cineplex used to be a cine goer’s darling, but the charm of it had faded quite a bit before its closure in 2017.

On a largely personal note, my association with this single-screen establishment began in 2001 when Lagaan, a period piece by Ashutosh Gowariker, was released. Having been treated to more than 20 movies at this venue, I can easily say that this single-screen spectacle was a little more than just a “theatre” to me.

The theatre was special because it provided “refuge” from the sorrows and disappointments that life had in store. Back in the late 2000s, when I was a school goer, getting my hands on endless piles of money was quite a task. Not much of it changed when I graduated from school and went on to pursue a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication from GGSIPU. However, getting a movie ticket at Vishal Cineplex didn’t cost much. So, life was much simpler in those days than it is in 2020.

Vishal Cineplex (Rajouri Garden) in New Delhi | Movie Schedule, Show Times,  Address & Contact Details | Vishal Cineplex (Rajouri Garden) Review.
The single-screen marvel closed down in 2017, a few months after the note ban.

The single-screen theatre ceased all operations in 2017, a few months after the much-publicised note ban. But several sepia-tinted memories of the single-screen marvel keep playing inside my head, much like an old videocassette. Coincidentally, I had a chance to visit the place a week before the curtains were drawn. All that met the eye was a ramshackle settlement, crippled by financial constraints and dwindling patronage.

A Sorry State: Delhi had more than 60 single-screen theatres back in the 1970s. More than 20 have ceased functioning in the past 5 years. A few iconic cinemas that remain, such as Rivoli, have been taken over by the multiplex majors.

What’s Wrong With The Single Screens?

Here’s the heart of the matter: multiplexes aren’t just about watching movies. They are also about hanging out with a bunch of friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Numerous multiplexes run in tandem with malls, which allows these commercial establishments to enjoy a considerable footfall at all times. Also, the likes of Movietime (Raja Garden) and PVR (Subhash Nagar) have been ruling the roost in parts of West Delhi because of their renewed focus on customer satisfaction.

Multiplex association urges government to reopen cinemas, says jobs are at  stake | Entertainment News,The Indian Express
Multiplexes are also witnessing a plunge in footfall in recent times.

Back in the 1990s, single-screens weren’t considered “fit” by many as most of these were shabby, dingy, and clumsily-tailored settlements. Times seem to have changed, but single-screens haven’t. Moreover, the changing needs of the young working population have had a major role to play in the downfall of the single screens. A contemporary youngster doesn’t just want to watch a movie; they want to treat themselves to the best snacks while enjoying a day at the movies. Also, the seats have to be comfortable, and the surroundings, clean. Simply put, it is the “experience” that counts.

Single screens, on the other hand, do not have much to choose from at their disposal. An average single-screen theatre isn’t a sight to behold. Ornamenting the premises is an “old-school” canteen selling samosas, chai, popcorn and cola. Quite frankly, gone are the days when cola and popcorn were a luxury. Popcorn and Pepsi are no longer things that bring joy and jubilation.

OTT Boom Seems To Be Taking The Multiplexes By Storm

How desi OTT platforms are trying to edge past Netflix and Amazon on the  back of festive special programming
The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 28% over the next four years or so.

Forget the single-screens; even multiplexes are finding it hard to stay afloat, especially after the outbreak of the pandemic. Downing of the multiplexes’ shutters has given wind to an OTT boom in the country. Just look at what the reports have to say. Between March and July, an increase of 30% was witnessed in the number of paid subscribers by the country’s OTT sector. The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 28% over the next four years or so. 

Also, there seems to be a strong inclination towards regional content because the focus is on “localisation” of storytelling. For instance, a largely raw depiction of incest in families was well depicted in Mirzapur on Amazon Prime. Similarly, Ashram (MX Player) brought to light the unholy web of greed and false healing that “godmen” weave around people in order to exploit faith and religion. Such stories attract a lot of eyeballs because of an immensely high degree of relevance.

Given the rising prices of movie tickets, movie buffs, such as myself, love it when a movie is released directly on an OTT platform. The idea is to watch a movie/web show from the comfort of your house without having to go anywhere.

survey conducted in 2019 by MoMAGIC highlighted that more than 50% of Indians prefer OTT platforms for watching movies and shows. This stat is symbolic of an average Indian’s love affair with OTT. Not just the audiences, but filmmakers too are warming up to OTT releases. The likes of Hansal Mehta (Chalaang) and Raghav Lawrence (Laxmii) did not hesitate much before opting for an OTT release.

More such moves (in the near future) would provide India’s “showmen” with an opportunity to safeguard their investments by minimising losses associated with delays in production/distribution. Moreover, movies releasing directly on Amazon Prime and Netflix would now be available globally. However, such actions would not be welcomed by the country’s multiplex majors who have been finding it hard to keep their bodies and souls together ever since the pandemic began making its presence felt.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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