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Nishat Cinema in all its glory (c. 1950)

Located on M.A Jinnah Road, Nishat Cinema was Pakistan’s first movie theatre, and despite facing competition from cinemas that were established later, including the nearby, Bambino, Capri and Prince, which boasted 70 mm screens and plush interiors, it continued to entertain crowds for almost six decades. Unfortunately, Nishat Cinema was burnt down during a protest in 2012 and two weeks ago, any hope of its restoration were dashed when it was put on sale.

nishat today

Charred remains of Nishat Cinema

It’s show time… According to its Director, Nawab Hasan Siddiq, Nishat Cinema was inaugurated by Fatima Jinnah in 1947. People who went there regularly recall queuing for hours outside to buy tickets for blockbusters including Shehri Babu and Doli (starring Rajesh Khanna and Inayat Hussain Bhatti respectively) in the 1950s. They vividly remember the hushed silence as the lights dimmed and the films began, as well as singing along to the songs of these films.

Out and about… Several high-end malls such as Gul Plaza and Star City Mall have cropped up recently near Nishat Cinema, replacing old-fashioned, wholesale bazaars. Several of Karachi’s oldest healthcare institutions, including the Taj Medical Complex, OMI and 7 Day Hospital, that have treated people for generations, are also located nearby. Foodie options are restricted to roadside cafes offering doodh patti and parathas, or fast food at the malls’ food courts.

Gul Plaza

Home accessories at Gul Plaza

The real estate take… Commercial property options in this part of M.A Jinnah Road include standalone shops as well as retail space in low- and high-rise buildings (the latter have been established recently). Property prices and rentals have increased by approximately 45 and 50% in the last three years; property is in high demand. Residential property options are limited to apartments.

In a nutshell… The sale of the charred remains of Nishat Cinema marks a sad end to what was once a buzzing hotspot for movie buffs, not to mention an iconic landmark that added character to Karachi’s skyline.

– Ayesha Shaikh