Friday, 21 November 2008

Are the protests about Bangalore International Airport justified?

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Ever since its beginning, Bangalore International Airport (BIA) has been in the eye of the storm. I would like to confess that I have not traveled abroad even once and not physically used great airports of the world. My air travel is limited to the Metros of this country. Here is my perception of the BIA protests:

1. BIA is too far away from the city.

True, but this fact was known to everybody from the date of its planning. Why did they not protest at that time? Some of the companies do own large chunks of unused land; very well they could have given it to the BIAL for setting up the airport in place of their convenience. To my knowledge, new international airports in most cities are away from the city. You could have had an airport in middle of the city, if India was not a democracy. It would have been easy to vacate thousands of acres of land forcibly. Authorities have to litigate hard to get a few meters of land for road widening, metro rail work, etc.

2. The proposed User Development Fees of BIA is high for domestic and budget airline travelers.

This is a very justified issue. The BIA should have 4 four levels of collection of UDF i.e. international passengers; domestic passengers (First Class, Economy Class and Budget Airlines). The UDF should be highest for international travel progressively declining for the subsequent classes.

3. The seating and rest room capacity of BIA is limited.

Yes, this is another justified issue. The seating capacity has to be increased given that people coming from long distance would like to reach ahead of time so that they don’t miss their flights. The rest room capacity is woefully inadequate and needs to be augmented.

4. The old HAL Airport needs to be re-used for domestic flights.

This demand is as absurd as the one that was made in Singur (WB) that ancillary facilities of the Nano plant have to be shifted out so that land can be returned to the farmers. The Government has an agreement with the BIAL authorities and is bound to honor it. Going back on this agreement may set-back Bangalore’s image as an investment destination for infrastructure projects. These are times of depression and air travel will be the first weapon of cost control. Such a big facility cannot be left to fend with dwindling international passengers. Come out of nostalgia folks, HAL Airport is history.

5. The BIAL looks like an industrial shed.

As it is we are complaining that the UDF is high, let’s us assume if this was an architectural marvel, what would have been the UDF. Moreover, an Airport is a transit point (forgive me for my naivety), if you want to see an architectural marvel go to the Vidhana Soudha, Taj Mahal, Charminar, Qutub Minar, Leaning Tower of Pisa, The Eiffel Tower, etc.

Yes, connectivity has to improve, the street lights have to get better but that is not the problem of BIAL authorities that is the Government’s responsibility. It is easy to ridicule anything but more important to realise that something good has come up. The BIA cannot be done away and at best can be improved. To be fair to BIA, it is quite comfortable (if you share my view of an airport being a transit point). The best thing about BIA is that you can commute to and fro by a bus from its door step.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Single Screen theaters of Bangalore

These are the days of swanky multiplexes. Bangalore has/had some great single screens. Here are some of the wonderful single screens of Bangalore which were a part of my growing-up. Those which have ceased to exit have been highlighted in red.

Mukunda: It is located in Maruthisevanagar. It is a middle class theatre which mostly screens regional and sometimes Hindi films. The best film I have seen here is Big B’s “Hera Pheri” and SRK’s ‘Daar”

Ashoka: This was located in Frazer Town. It used to screen Tamil and Hindi films. I don’t remember to have gone to this theatre.

Naga: What a theatre, sirji! This theater was located in St. Johns Road. I really felt bad when this theatre went down. The screen was fabulous so was the parking. I saw the first movie of my life in this theater. I have seen countless films in this theatre and the last was “Rang De Basanti”.

Lavanya : Situated adjacent to Naga, this theater screens only Tamil films. I found nothing special about this theater.

Lakshmi: Situated next to Lakshmi, another of those theatres which screened only Tamil films. This theater had one of the most cramped parking spaces but I remember to have seen some great movies of Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth.

Shree: This theatre went out of business almost a decade ago. It used to be shut down frequently due to labour problem. They used to screen old Tamil and Hindi films. The best films I have seen are “Namak Halal”, “Yarana (Big B’s)” and a couple of Shivaji Ganesan Movies.

Ajantha : It is a multi lingual theatre. This theater screens Kannada films in the morning show. I was a fan of Vishnuvardhan and seen a lot of his films over here. The one thing I did not like about this theater those days was when there was a hit film very few tickets were sold across the counter.

Lido: This is one more of those theaters which I classify under the “What a theater, sirji!” The single screen does not exist but a multiplex has come up in its place under the brand name “Fame”. Top class theater, screen, audio, snacks bar and a great parking facility. Most of the tickets in this theater got sold in the counter and I am a fan of this theater for this very reason. Any day a movie in Lido, is a pleasure for me. Gandhi is the best film I have seen here as also India’s first 3D film “My Dear Kutty Chatan”.

Symphony (Shankarnag Chitramandira): I have seen numerous English films in this theater. The only thing I don’t like about this theater was the number of steps you had to climb up if you took a balcony ticket because more often than not, the lift here never works.

Blue Moon and Blue Diamond: Wonderful theatres. Both went out of business more than a decade ago and a commercial complex has come up. There used to be a book seller as well as a shop which used to sell Coffee and Samosa. It used one of the favorite hang-out corners for me and my friend when we went to MG Road just to admire the chicks passing by.

Plaza: The best of English films used to be screened here but same cannot be said about the quality of rest rooms of the theater which were awful.

Rex: What a, What a theater, sirji! Hats off to this theater ya in all aspects. I have never seen the tickets of this theater being sold in black.

Galaxy: The interiors of this theater were great but it had an awful parking lot. People used to get into fist fights during getting in and out of the parking lot.

Hardly have I gone to the other side of Bangalore to see a movie, I just can’t comment on them. However, I would like to mention about Sagar, Santosh, Sapna, Triveni, Majestic, etc. There was also a small theater in Ulsoor area, where I remember to have seen a movie, I just can’t remember its name.

One movie for a family of four in a multiplex could easily mean an expenditure of Rs.1000/- and three movies can easily buy you a DVD player. Everybody talks about piracy and its evil impacts. I am totally against film piracy but piracy cannot be curbed if you put movie viewing beyond the reach of a lower middle class family. The best way to curb piracy is to think about reviving the single screens or come up with budget multiplexes across the country. When we can have an economy class in all spheres of life, why not while viewing films? Everybody loves to go to a movie with their family but not at the cost of food on their plate. This is the message the entire film industry has to understand if they want to curb piracy. Citizens alone are not responsible to curb piracy.

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Banglaore, Karnataka, India