Uncertainty over century old iconic Star Theatre`s future

Kolkata: With the Kolkata Municipal Corporation deciding to take over the century-old Star Theatre from a private operator, the fate of the heritage cultural institution lies uncertain.

Starting from April 1, Star Theatre will have new bosses from the civic body, who are yet to decide on the future of the employees and the cultural and entertainment activities going on in the theatre.

Priya Entertainment Private Limited (PEPL), which has so far been running the famous theatre successfully on a lease agreement, had employed altogether 88 people in the theatre besides running a restaurant, fast food chain and a sweet shop inside the premises.

When contacted, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation`s (KMC) member of Mayor-in-council Atin Ghosh told PTI that they were yet to plan the future course of action.

PEPL`s owner Arijit Dutta said the end of agreement with them might also mean that the theatre would no longer screen commercial Bengali movies and would cease to be a youth hangout joint.

"It is the only good theatre we have in the entire north Kolkata. But now we do not know whether they will continue screening films or not," he said. KMC has already raised concerns over the commercial activities going on in the theatre.

"They have turned it into a mere cinema hall," the KMC official complained pointing out that Star Theatre was built in 1888, inspired by legendary Bengali playwrights like Girish Ghosh.

At the centrestage of Bengali art and culture till the 80s, once Rabindranath Tagore had also watched a play there as all the big names in theatre used to perform at Star.

Another issue after the takeover will be the financial burden on KMC.

Ghosh admitted that the theatre has already been reporting losses for the last five years ever since the KMC-owned property was leased out to Dutta.

Besides investing Rs 64 lakh to augment the infrastructure of the theatre, PEPL has so far arranged around 600 cultural shows, including stage performances.

"Since 2007 we have paid Rs 2.67 crore in terms of entertainment tax, VAT and sales tax. We have also paid KMC Rs 55 lakh as lease rent," Dutta said.

At present, the civic body runs nine theatres such as Uttam Mancha, Sarat Sadan and Birendra Mancha.

They have constituted an advisory committee, headed by state education minister and eminent theatrician Bratya Basu, to look after operations of the theatres.


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