The walls that once held posters depicting love stories of the 1990s are now covered with flyers advertising a jewellery brand or with yellow-coloured pamphlets informing in bold black hues about an apartment to be let out.
PVR Anupam market in Saket, which is locally known as PVR market and was once the go-to place for cinema lovers, has undergone a huge transformation over the last decade.
It was one of the first spots to hang out for people from south Delhi.
Be it the very first McDonald’s with Ronald McDonald (a clown character used as mascot by McDonald’s fast-food chain) sitting on a bench outside the restaurant and attracting not just kids but also the elderly, or grabbing a quick bite of affordable biryani, checking out local shops, college goers buying their first pack of cigarettes and families spending time — PVR complex market had everything to offer people across age groups.
Shift in the movie going experience
Asif Khan, 43, who runs a shop in the PVR Anupam market says, “Ab wo raunak kahaan. Ab to hum grahak dekhne ko bhi taras gaye hain (Now there’s no charm left here. The footfall has reduced drastically). There was a time when Anupam market would be the poshest yet most inclusive place for all. I have seen and heard people discuss work, love and what not! However, this has changed now. You would see only a handful of people here. The place has lost charm because of rapid commercialisation over the past decade. There’s a McDonald’s now in nearly every nook and corner of the city. And there are several other local outlets offering a gamut of food options in every locality of Delhi. People have no reason to visit PVR complex market now.”
From cold coffee to cigarettes and candies, Khan sells everything. His little shop is right in front of the PVR cinemas. Khan also observes the lukewarm response of film buffs.
He says, “Earlier people would come to watch movies here with a passion that is no longer evident. There would be a long queue for tickets and many would come out to eat during the interval. Today, you see there’s OTT (over-the-top) platform. People watch diverse content on their screens and do not go to the cinema halls frequently.”
There are more like Khan who believe that OTT platform is the reason why people have almost stopped going to cinema halls these days.
The PVR complex market would largely depend on the people coming to watch movies at the PVR cinemas.
There’s Giani’s ice cream shop, Aslam Chicken Corner, the iconic Prince Paan and Wow Momo to name a few. Yet, the market is desolate.
“It is not that we haven’t moved with time. You see there’s Haldiram’s, Bikaner, Burger King, and even Cafe Coffee Day. But people prefer going to the Select City Walk mall that opened in 2007. With a big food court and glitzy décor, the mall attracts people. Moreover, you don’t need money to see things inside the mall, right?” adds Khan.
Despite several attempts by the locals to give the Anupam PVR market a makeover, nothing seems to be working.
The shopkeepers are struggling to keep up with the competition outside. Rapid commercialisation and consequently affordability has changed the idea of leisure activities. More artistic places have sprung up in the recent past. The urban wanderers have found alternative junctions like Champa Gali, Select City Walk Mall, and more.
The locals believe that innovation is the USP of any business in today’s times. Anupam market lacks the innovation that people are craving for.
“You can find burgers, pizzas and momos everywhere. Then why would people come to your shop or market? There should be something unique in order to stand out. Now, movie going is not the same so it is important for the existing shops to innovate. Don’t you see around how business has evolved? You can eat inside a special food bus, aircraft and even dine sitting up in the sky (fly dining). It is clearly hinting at a revolution in the marketplaces,” said a few locals.
“Priya Village Roadshow limited, in short PVR, has been leading since 1997. This is not just a normal movie screening agency. It is an emotion altogether,” tells Ranjeet Longre, a visitor to the market and a local resident.
As a young chap, Longre would often visit the marketplace with a bunch of friends. He would buy a movie ticket for which he would save a portion from his pocket money.
“After the movie, we would sit on the bench outside and sip cold coffee. The younger me would eagerly go to the makeshift shops selling quirky posters and books — second copy of Alchemist, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Think Like a Monk and many more. I would buy a poster of catchy phrases to decorate my cupboard. Nothing was very expensive. We would have a good time there. But today, we prefer going to malls or other interesting places like Champa Gali in Saket to enjoy ourselves. Maybe something interesting should come up to gain traction,” adds Longre.
Lost and found: Basant Lok market
Basant Lok market is not as it was before. Priya Cinema was also the go-to place for people. Many people have memories of that Thursday night preview of 3 Idiots when the entire cinema stood up in unison to give a round of applause. Or the days when exclusive theme-based shows were organised. Like Anupam, Basant Lok market too had been a favourite hang-out destination for Delhiites.
“My mother used to sit here as we owned a well-lit shop years ago. Financial crunch and low profit ratio led to a complete shutdown. I remember accompanying my mother as a young boy to Basant Lok market. My memories are of college students hanging out with their friends in the market area. They would sit for hours gossiping and buying refreshments from local eateries,” recalls Nadeem.
“Taking bites of shawarma dipping in white chutney, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Families would come with their own Yashica cameras and click pictures of their loved ones. In contrast, what you see today is a mishmash of well-lit air-conditioned shops, cafes and restaurants. But there’s a particular section of society which likes going to these artsy places. However, the divide can be easily felt just as you step in the premises. Not everyone can afford expensive food and develop the taste of food items whose recipes have been taken from the west,” explains Nadeem who is selling artificial jewellery in the complex.
According to Nadeem, the business is almost dead.
He hadn’t sold any jewellery item since morning and had very low hopes for the rest of the day when Patriot visited.
Even though the Basant Lok market got a facelift to regain its lost glory, there’s hardly been any improvement as footfall remains low.
In 2019, the market was given a facelift with an open amphitheatre, open plazas, green spaces, ornamental lights, spacious corridors with granite floors and parking lots among others.
As part of the project initiated by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on the directions of the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, CCTV cameras, street furniture and toilets were built.
However, things didn’t improve much. Only a handful of people from the offices come here and munch snacks or take a cup of their favourite tea. Sometimes, YouTubers can be spotted shooting a video on getting silver button (when you get 1 lakh subscribers).