Tangail’s cinema hall business began in 1950, with Lebu Chowdhury constructing Rawshan Talkies in a secluded corner of the then small town.
Malanch Cinema Hall in Tangail after being demolished. Photos: Mirza Shakil“>
Malanch Cinema Hall in Tangail after being demolished. Photos: Mirza Shakil
In 1887, the then British government established the municipality of Tangail. Later, in 1969, when Tangail became a district town. After independence, cinema was one of the means of healthy entertainment for the people of Tangail.
Tangail’s cinema hall business began in 1950, with Lebu Chowdhury constructing Rawshan Talkies in a secluded corner of the then small town. At that time, cinema hall owners were considered to be the ‘elite class’ of society.
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Following Chowdhury’s footsteps, other cinema halls were opened in 12 upazilas. In the 1990s, this number stood at 51.
Inspired by Lebu Chowdhury, Montu Miah established the town’s most attractive cinema hall in 1964, next to the main road. He named the hall Rupbani and it was the second cinema hall in the district.
In 1973, Chowdhury, built a second cinema hall named Rupsi. Later he built three more cinema halls in Delduar, Mirzapur and Dhanbari upazilas. In 1975 Sana Miah built the fourth cinema hall Malanch at Adalat Para.
Malanch hall before demolition.“>
Malanch hall before demolition.
The businesses were profitable till 2000. In 1990, there were a total of 51 cinema halls in Tangail. Around that time, the halls would screen five shows daily from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. From the town-side to the rural market, posters and microphones were used to publicise the release date of new films. During festivals like Eid, there would usually be large crowds in front of the cinema hall.
However, in the years that followed, 46 cinema halls were closed—one after the other—due to a lack of audiences.
Earlier in 1996, the Rawshan Hall was demolished and a shopping mall was constructed in its stead. Rupbani came crumbling down in 2000, Rupsi in 2008 and Kaya Hall in 2019—all being replaced by the construction for multi-storied buildings.
With the demolition of the Malanch Cinema Hall, the silver screen era has come to an end in the ancient town of Tangail.
Malanch Hall Manager Abdul Miah said that the journey of the cinema hall began in 1974 with the film “Jighansa”. Business was good then. Later, due to the lack of audiences, the hall had to suffer losses, year after year. Even while suffering losses, the hall was kept open for a long time.
However, Abdul Miah believes that if films with interesting stories and high-quality production values are made, paired with digitised cinema halls built with government support, then this industry could survive or even thrive.
Siraj Miah, a well-known mic-man in Tangail, shared how once upon a time, the people of the town would carefully listen to a hall’s miking to learn which movie would be playing. Now, this scenario no longer exists.
“Sometimes many films were released in Tangail’s halls first. To see the audience’s reactions to the film, popular actors, actresses and directors would come and watch their films in the local halls. Back then, the hall would be abuzz with people rushing to see these celebrities,” said Siraj.
Khalil Miah of Delduar talked about how cinema helped him as a young man, “When I was younger, I worked hard to live in this town. The only reason for this was the easy availability of cinema halls. At that time, I rarely missed a movie and would usually get to watch all the movies I wanted. I have seen many of the movies several times. The stories of these movie were so beautiful. Sometimes, I used to shed tears while seeing the sad scenes. Afterwards, I would root for the hero to win over the villain.”
Back then, the cinema business was booming, which resulted in the Cinema Hall Workers’ Union being formed in the district.
Mokhlesur Rahman, who worked as a machine operator in a few of the cinema halls, now works as an electrician. “Oh back in those days, things were so wonderful! People were crazy for films. After finishing work at the cinema hall, I would return home with bundle of cash at night,” he said.
As the years went on, the advancement of technology, advent of satellite channels, mobile phones and internet etc., caused cinema halls to begin closing one by one—fuelled further by the low quality of films and poor production value.
At present two cinema halls in Nagarpur upazila, one in Madhupur and another in Kalihati upazila are functioning irregularly. However, due to the severe recession, the owners of these halls do not know for how long they will be able to continue.
Rokhsana Khan, a teacher of a college in the town, said, “When I was a child, I would go to watch movies with my parents. The best movies were usually screened at Malanch and Rupbani. Back then, the families who lived in the town would watch the evening shows, while the working-class people watched the screenings at night.”
“The proliferation of technology has happened everywhere. It is a sad fact that the cinema industry is expanding all over the world—including neighbouring countries like India—but halls in Bangladesh are closing down. This is particularly sad because cinema is not only a medium of entertainment, but also a powerful medium for social reform,” she added.
“Now many good films are being made in Bangladesh. There is a lot of hype and buzz around these movies and people are gathering to watch them. So, if educated and professional people come forward, with sincere support from the government, then the cinema hall industry in Bangladesh can be revived once again,” concluded Rokhsana.