The fate of the charred building of what used to be a bustling Nishat cinema hangs in the balance as the Mandviwala Estate in an advertisement put the 66-year-old theatre for sale Tuesday.

“The journey of entertaining millions at Karachi’s prominent landmark, the glorious Nishat Cinema has now come to the end," the ad reads.

 The celebrated witness of many a packed hall, Nishat’s voyage has now reached its culmination point.
The celebrated witness of many a packed hall, Nishat’s voyage has now reached its culmination point.

During the violent protests of angry mobs over the controversial video Innocence of Muslims in 2012, Nishat cinema became a target of vandalism and arson attacks.

Speaking to Dawn about the advertisement for sale, owner and managing director of Mandviwalla Entertainment, Nadeem Mandviwalla said the sale was inevitable, as there was no possibility of reconstructing the cinema.

Nishat Cinema 1974
Nishat Cinema 1974

“We have to move on — we cannot rebuild it. There is no point in erecting a new building because what is the guarantee that it won’t happen again? M.A. Jinnah road is a vulnerable point for cinemas and every now and then there are different protests and rallies happening in the area," he said.

"When the mob was ransacking the cinema, 70 channels were telecasting it live. It continued for hours and yet the police did not intervene. Why should one build property when security is not provided? Had the concerned authorities reached the spot, I would have some reassurance... but they didn't."

  A view of the torched Nishat cinema in Karachi. – Photo by Muhammad Kamran Jawaid
A view of the torched Nishat cinema in Karachi. – Photo by Muhammad Kamran Jawaid

Mandviwalla adds: "The attack by the mob was not hidden, it was done in broad daylight and it was a security lapse because they had been given the opportunity to ransack those places.”

When asked if he would consider building a cinema at the same location, he said: “After the incident, I was asked about rebuilding the place myself at a press conference, and I had said I could reconstruct a cinema there if the assembly passes a motion that there would not be any processions on that road — that it would be declared a red zone.”

Nishat cinema.—Photo Courtesy: Nishat's Official Facebook Page
Nishat cinema.—Photo Courtesy: Nishat's Official Facebook Page

Given the landmark's history as a popular site of the city, news of the cinema's sale saddened Karachiites.

Once buzzing with people of all ages, Nishat is now reduced to a skeletal frame, with no sign of the glory days when people would flock to queue for their favourite films.

Nishat cinema. — Photo Courtesy: Nishat's Facebook Page
Nishat cinema. — Photo Courtesy: Nishat's Facebook Page

“There is no doubt that Nishat cinema is one of the oldest landmarks in the city and almost everyone has a nostalgic affiliation with the place. I do too, but this country is going through graver problems — people lose their lives every day and for me that it is more tragic than the loss of a cinema. These are turbulent times and I cannot prioritise Nishat over human loss,” Mandviwalla said.

Nishat cinema. — Photo Courtesy: Nishat's Official Facebook Page
Nishat cinema. — Photo Courtesy: Nishat's Official Facebook Page

Although Prince, Capri and Bambino cinemas also suffered the same fate as Nishat, they were able to recover from the episode.

“Bambino, Capri, Nishat and Prince were targeted but the damage faced by Capri and Bambino was not as severe as what transpired with Prince and Nishat. It was next to impossible to revive Nishat.”

  Burnt down Prince cinema. – Photo by AFP
Burnt down Prince cinema. – Photo by AFP

Mandviwalla reiterates his sentiments citing a famous Urdu adage:

“Pehli baar ghalti hoti hai, doosri baar nadaani.” (The first time you do something wrong, it is a mistake but the second time you do the same, it is foolishness.)

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