Surprisingly close to tourist heavy Red Fort in Old Delhi India, lies Moti Talkies, the oldest and only remaining Bhojpuri movie single-screen theatre in the nation’s capital. The theatre is extremely easy to pass by, with the only way to it being through a dully lit narrow lane marked only by small film posters.
Once an illustrious cinema frequented by the ‘traditional’ Delhi elite to see their favorite actors like Raj Kapoor to Juhi Chawla, Moti Talkies fell victim to bigger and modern multiplexes and started playing regional Bhojpuri in light of the influx of migrant labourers to Old Delhi.With the ticket prices starting from Rs 35 ie 50 cents and refreshments from Rs 10 ie 15 cents, the theatre became a connection to home for migrant labourers who form the largely exploited backbone of commercial activities in Old Delhi. One could finally watch a movie in their own language with popcorn, a chilled glass bottle of Coca Cola andeven desserts at a price that didn’t break the bank.
The hall provided an escape from the reality of their surroundings, watch their favourite heroes fight and heroines dance, forget domestic realities, spend quality family time, skip school or just pass their day before catching a bus to their hometown.Even with such low ticket prices, the footfall at Moti remained miniscule, full houses are rare to come by and incurring heavy losses, the cinema was sold by its original owners in late 2019 and is slated to be torn down and replaced by yet another commercial hub in Old Delhi.
With the onslaught of Covid-19, the theatre was abruptly shut down with no information given to the staff whether the theatre will ever reopen again. A big cultural loss to the city, leaving an entire socio-economic demographic in Delhi without access to affordable cinema.
About Yuvraj Khanna
Born & raised in Delhi, India, Yuvraj Khanna worked as a music teacher and trial lawyer before moving to New York to study in the Documentary Practice and Journalism program at the International Center of Photography. Currently in New York City as a freelance photographer working on socio-political stories with strong human elements.