In the heart of South Mumbai, Liberty Cinema is a film hub where one can watch some majestic movies for no cost at all.
On the other side of the crowded Marine Lines train station, literally across the famed Queen’s Necklace in South Mumbai, on a noisy street full of multiple restaurants and street-food vendors on either sides, functions the Liberty Cinema.
Liberty is a single-screen, art-deco style movie theatre built in 1947. Just a few months earlier, India had gained independence and hence the name ‘Liberty’. After entertaining Mumbai’s cinefans for over seven decades, Liberty has now converted itself in a theatre that propagates cinema as an art by screening world cinema entirely free of cost!
It is one of its kind in the entire nation and attracts ardent cinema lovers who treat the seventh art as really an art. By screening movies for free, the management is trying to grab eye-balls of people who otherwise won’t show interest in knowledge-based, non-commercial cinema.
Neville Tuli, Chairman of Osianama, an institution for the Indian Arts, Cinema, Cultural Heritage and its education, is taking forward the legacy that Habib Hoosein, who founded Liberty in 1947, left behind, by partnering with the new owner, Nazir Hoosein.
According to Tuli, ‘Osianama at Liberty’ is trying to build an artistic and cultural infrastructure with a strong creative value system and it does not believe in dumbing down the masses in the name of entertainment.
World cinema at no cost
“For the past decade it has been my objective to bring the best of world cinema to India and that too without having our people pay for this pleasure, and systematically link it to Osian’s larger cultural learning and educational framework. All creativity should be first and foremost seen as an artistic and aesthetic experience while adding to the knowledge-base of humanity. The entertainment perspective, though important, must be seen as secondary. The moment you privilege the entertainment aspects over the more serious intellectual, aesthetic and spiritual dimensions, you weaken, compromise and slowly destroy your cultural civilization,” says Tuli.
Liberty Cinema has no income at all. There are only a few costs which are covered and it is a loss making exercise for Osianama. However, ‘Osianama at Liberty’ makes sure the owners of the Cinema Hall do not lose money. They follow a cross-subsidizing framework for this.
“The Osian’s Auction House subsidizes this process. With time, as the membership grows, we are sure most of the costs will be recovered. However, as long as we do not lose too much money in the long run, it is fine, the service continues, awareness spreads, knowledge increases, sensibilities get refined, and our society matures with a more intelligent and compassionate base towards all, and most importantly their own individual creativity is respected deeper,” says Tuli.
Osianama has some film experts who develop the programming of ‘Osianama at Liberty’. The films are chosen with immense sensitivity, knowledge and deep understanding and love for world cinema.
“We access films from top sales agents around the world as well as dedicated Indian film clubs like Enlighten Film Society, who also love and respect world cinema,” says Tuli
Now, Tuli and Hoosein are trying to make ‘Osianama at Liberty’, a capital of world cinema. They hope to share their collection of great films and bring up India’s first International Museum for Cinema at Liberty Cinema.
A Royal Experience
Liberty-has a simple looking external structure but is magnificent from within. The manned-giant wooden doors open to a red and golden ambience which is sure to leave you breathless at the first look. The red carpet spread from corner to corner and the grand chandeliers hanging from an oval-shaped ceiling give the lobby a royal-touch.
There is a popcorn seller on the right hand side and a beverage counter on the left. There are not many options on the menu to choose from but it’s a high possibility that you won’t think about grabbing a hamburger in such a decor. You would rather wish you had a designer dress on and glass of wine in your hand. The ambience is of such glory. Candid pictures of celebrities from a by-gone era and black and white movie posters hang on walls all around and you can time-travel into the cinematic world through them, while you wait for your movie to begin.
The doors to the hall open in time for everyone to get seated, the national anthem to play and the movie to begin exactly on time. Punctuality, if not an attraction, is a quality that Liberty has.
The 1200 red coloured seats in the hall are all open to the audience. No seats are allotted. One can sit anywhere in the theatre. Groups of college students, ladies from the neighbourhood, couples, grandparents, taxi drivers and TV-stars, often in disguise, basically people from all walks of life come here and enjoy world cinema.
Every month, films around a particular theme are screened. Womanhood, Animal-Human-Nature-Continuum and Marathi movies are some of the themes. The films are absorbing enough to ensure that the viewers leave the theatre lost in thoughts and contemplating what they just saw. They don’t get to see such movies everyday, after all. People gather outside the hall or in the lobby after the movie and discuss it at length. Anyone can join in the conversation.
The theatre has art glued to its screens and history hidden its walls. It treats its visitors with the past and the present of the cinema world.
To read more on the venue, legacy and history, please click here http://www.thelibertycinema.com/contact/.