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Prasads Multiplex (Shopping Mall)

Charminar. Salarjung Museum. Hussain Sagar. Jumeraat Bazar. Prasad's Multiplex.

They say there are some things that will add to that list. Something that will solve our traffic problems perhaps. Or make us immortal.

For the time being, though, it looks like it's going to be hard to better that list.

Which was what we thought when that list did not have the last name on it.

To the list of must-see, must-do things in Hyderabad was added Prasad's Multiplex in 2002. Such was the hype before it even opened its doors, that crowds thronged the nondescript road behind NTR Gardens, hoping to see what secrets lay within this blue and white giant. And when the gates of heaven fell open, the eager mortals were, to put it meekly, bedazzled and blown away.

Prasad's Multiplex is no mere movie theater, and is definitely much more than a tourist destination. It is a part of the culture of Hyderabad itself, having played a kingpin's role in shaping the personality of this city. Prasad's was the first world-class entertainment complex in the city, not to mention the first truly complete one. Going to Prasad's meant not having to carry a tiffin box and a Milton water bottle for the family, it meant not having to contend with paan stains on the stairs and chewed gum on your seats. It meant, quite simply, the good life. And Prasad's challenged you to live it boldly and not feel guilty about having fun.

Essentially, Prasad's bet that the Hyderabadi middle class would spend if you gave them reason to. That consumerism had come of age in the city, and people no longer wanted to preserve every penny in the bank - they wanted to, gasp, spend it! The conservative Hyderabadi crowd leapt at the clean wholesome entertainment despite the high price tag (Rs. 60 for any ticket, vs. Rs. 35 for the balcony at Sangeet until then). People no longer held back from splurging on fleeting luxuries like a plush seat in a theater or a large pack of popcorn. Somewhere, a wall had been breached and a new trend set.

And gradually, Prasad's began to set the pace. Whatever was at Prasad's was hip, it had to be Had, Done. Premieres had to be held in Prasad's, events had to be promoted here, celebrities arranged to meet their friends here, and the press had to keep writing about Prasad's whether they liked it or now, simply since everyone else was doing it.

With the biggest IMAX screen in Asia, and the only one in at least a 100-mile radius, Prasad's has been a blockbuster from the word go. It actually doesn't even have too many IMAX films. They're mostly screening regular films on the big screen and charging quite a lot (Rs. 180 as we write this) for it. But it's working, pulling crowds in great numbers.

A good reason for that, of course, is the mall that it's turned into. The multiplexes (5 theaters including IMAX, very well-maintained, comfortable seats, 18000W of sound, clean loos, disastrous leg-room) draw crowds all right, but the food court is a big black hole in itself. Sprawled on the ground floor is Ohri's Food Court that serves from an assortment of nine succulent cuisines. The stand-alone outlets have taken a while to catch on, but after the coming of the Subway and Marry Brown, food lovers have never had it better. And as you grab that quick bite on your lunch hour, you even get a crash course on ornithology absolutely free!

And speaking of the fairer sex, for those of you who have to take your better half out shopping, the good news is that there's an extensive shopping area here, too, which means that while she shops, you can catch a couple of flicks and she won't even notice that you did it without her. Besides, you can always claim you were in the loo. But a word of caution here for those who are modest - the urinals do not have partitions, and many an Indian man would find himself overcome with stage fright at just that moment of truth.

Apart from shopping and the movies, gaming (including the fussball table of Friends fame), rock-climbing and being scared silly in the Scary House are other ways to while away valuable time at Prasad's.

Prasad's is a gripping phenomenon, and has sunk so deep into the Hyderabadi consciousness that it will be around for a long time. And despite the threat of PVR setting up shop in the city, Prasad's loyal clientele is unlikely to desert it - if for nothing else, then for the ease of reach and the well-planned parking space alone.
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