Ganga Jamuna Cinema

- Sumeet Nadkarni & Alex Almeida

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Opening its silver screen with the Rajesh Khanna starrer Dushmun in 1971, the twin cinemas – Ganga and Jamuna – located at Tardeo tasted instant success with this film followed by Dev Anand’s highly successful Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971).

The only twin theatres in Mumbai city, Ganga was a thousand seater while Jamuna was slightly smaller with eight hundred fifty seats. Both cinemas were class divided in to stalls and balcony and offered air conditioned comfort to its audience. The ticket prices were economical enough to offer a great value for money.

In the ’70s and ’80s, Ganga as well as Jamuna was the main theatre for many Amitabh Bachchan blockbusters like Don (1978), Ganga Ki Saugandh (1978), Suhaag (1979), Mr Natwarlal (1979), Dostana (1980), Ram Balram (1980), Kaalia (1981), Khud-daar (1982) and Nastik (1983). In fact, Don was released to packed house at Ganga cinema in May 1978 even as Ganga Ki Saugand was marching towards its silver jubilee (25 weeks run) at the next door Jamuna.

After the success of Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Ganga-Jamuna became preferred theatre for Dev Saahab who chose to premiere most of his ’80s and early ’90s films here – Swami Dada (1982), Hum Naujawan (1985), Awwal Number (1990) and Sau Crore (1991) to be precise.

Rajshri Productions also chose these twin cinemas to screen their small budget family oriented movies like Dulhan Wahi Jo Piya Man Bhaye (1977) and Ankhiyon Ke Jharokon Se (1978). Both the films attracted a significant women audience who came in large groups to catch the matinee shows. Dulhan Wahi Jo Piya Man Bhaaye ran for a record 75 weeks in Jamuna matinee.

Later, the theatre made stars out of debutants Sanjay Dutt and Jackie Shroff whose Rocky (1981) and Hero (1983) were released at Ganga. At Rocky’s premiere, a seat was kept vacant in between Sunil Dutt and Sanjay Dutt to mark presence of late Nargis who passed away three days before its release.

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The twin cinemas underwent a management change as well as a facelift in late ’80s and re-opened in 1988 with the Govinda starrer Ghar Mein Ram Gali Mein Shyam. It screened many popular films of that era like Batwara (1989), Ilaaka (1989), Kroadh (1990) and Zahreelay (1990).

Around this time, Jamuna cinema even found itself in a scene in the Salman Khan starrer Love (1991) where he and his heroine Revathi go to watch the Bollywood classic Gumnaam (1965).

From mid ’90s onwards, the twin theatres started slipping due to the video menace and increasing maintenance costs. Except for a stray Judge Mujrim (1997), it started screening B grade Hindi and soft porn Hollywood films only. In one of his recent interviews, owner Gul Acchra lamented about the advent of multiplexes which made it even more difficult for single screens like Ganga Jamuna to survive. While the multiplexes enjoyed tax exemptions in their initial years, the single screens crumbled further under the entertainment tax levy.

Ganga cinema downed shutters in 2001 followed by Jamuna a few years later in 2007. Around that time, it was reported that the twin theatres would be demolished and redeveloped into a sprawling four screen multiplex. The new commercial complex was supposed to be a gigantic eight storey structure with elaborate parking facility and other modern amenities. Unfortunately, the plan didn’t materialise and Ganga Jamuna were left to rot for the next eighteen years.

The theatres found itself in Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)’s list of dilapidated buildings and the authority ordered its demolition sometime in 2020. Finally, in August 2020 after the Corona induced lockdown, the demolition process started thus bringing an end to a glorious era of silver and golden jubilee blockbusters, something the new generation may never experience!!

P.S. Some of the popular films released at Ganga cinema : Dost (1974), Khote Sikkay (1974), Pratiggya (1975), Dharam Veer (1977), Inkaar (1977), Karz (1980), Katilon Ke Kaatil (1981) and Dharm Aur Qanoon (1984).

Some of the memorable releases at Jamuna: Kalicharan (1976), Chhailla Babu (1977), Mujhe Insaaf Chahiye (1983) and Baazi (1984).

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All images courtesy Internet