Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) featuring Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in the lead is one of the most iconic films in Indian cinema. The film, which was a huge box office success, has been running continuously at Mumbai’s iconic Maratha Mandir since it released in 1995. The film’s run was only interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced all cinema halls to shut. Until the lockdown in March 2020, DDLJ had a matinee show every single day, even if the footfall was minimum.
The screening was resumed in November 2020, after cinemas were allowed to reopen and the Maharashtra government granted permission for 50 per cent seating in cinema halls. However, the run was interrupted again during the second wave of Covid-19.
With theaters reopening in Maharashtra on October 22, the film will be back in the matinee show at Maratha Mandir. Manoj Desai, the executive director of Maratha Mandir and G-7 single screens tells News18, “There was no doubt about continuing with the film. It was always the first show of the day and that tradition will continue; we had to discontinue it only because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have a long standing association with Yash Raj Films especially because of Yash Chopraji. He always respected the distributors and exhibitors and this is our way to pay tribute to him."
While Desai admits that the last 18 months have been really tough for theatre business, he still prefers to show DDLJ in the matinee show over a new release. “The ticket rates are Rs 20 (for stall), Rs 25 (for dress circle) and Rs 30 (for balcony). On a daily basis, we get an occupancy of around 200 to 300 people (total theatre capacity of 1100). The theatre is located opposite a railway station and a bus depot so many travellers come and relax before starting their journey. Apart from that we also see a lot of couples coming in. We even see a slight increase in the audience during the weekend. So it is better to run DDLJ than a new release which may or may not work. We might not see a housefull due to 50 per cent capacity but there are times before Covid when that would happen, too."
With Maharashtra government granting permission to reopen the theatres with 50 percent seating capacity, Desai is confident that people will come back to watch their favourite film. “Apart from the normal viewers, the film also has a loyal audience who time and again come to watch Shah Rukh and Kajol create magic on screen. DDLJ will continue to run at Maratha Mandir until YRF decides to stop screening it," he says.
Desai hopes that the opening of theaters and the festive season brings some cheer for the theatre industry. “While DDLJ will be running in the matinee show, the afternoon and evening shows will have the dubbed version of Kangana Ranaut’s Thalaivii. In the night show, we will have the dubbed version of James Bond’s latest film No Time To Die. We hope people come in huge numbers and support our industry," he adds.