Prasads is arguably the most hyped multiplex in the city. That's partly legacy and partly substance. However, there's another part to the substance that's not entirely something worth hyping. But let's get there in time.
The first multiplex to hit Hyderabad and provide world-class entertainment to the denizens of the twin cities, Prasads opened its doors in 2002 to almost undisputed awe. Most people (including all Telugu movie dialogue-writers and most Telugu-speaking folks) continue to call it "IMAX theatre", showcasing the focus the place put on its IMAX screen (Prasads has 4 normal screens and 1 IMAX screen
, and is in addition a full-fledged mall
), which is referred to as Asia's largest movie screen. Now is being Asia's largest movie screen a good thing? Later.
First, the good stuff. You pay almost strictly for the crowd at Prasads. A whole lot of people in Hyderabad's software/corporate circuit and high-end residential areas will never be seen in any of the RTC X Roads theatres (however good they might increasingly be), and as butt-pinching became lesser of a one-off thing even at the now-history Sangeet, Prasads became the capital for movie-watching for all who could afford it. And the number who can is astounding - try getting a ticket to your favorite film on a weekend. Then try getting a ticket to a not-so-favorite film.
Yes, for many people, it's the people around - Rs. 100 per ticket is a surprisingly close metaphor for a civilized crowd - that is the biggest draw at Prasads. Then, the men/women at the ticket counters are mostly polite and speak English (both a strict no-no at the non-multiplexes), the toilets are kept clean, the food is served through a pretty hygienic system and by pleasant people, the shows start on time, and yes, the A/C is always switched on.
Only, the movie-watching experience is certainly not the most comfortable. For starters, the halls at Prasads (except IMAX, which has the opposite problem) are almost tiny, compared especially to just any screen at RTC X Roads, even the 35mms. Then, if you do not get tickets in the first 6 rows - A-F - you are doomed to a less-than-memorable 2 hours. And if in addition your tickets are to one extreme of the row rather than near the aisle, you can forget that you came to have a good time.
Indeed, it's pretty surprising that you have to pay Rs. 100 to sit in the top row as well as about 5 metres away from the screen, killing your neck and getting a headache. Then, the legroom - or lack of it - can be traumatizing for anyone above 5'8". Prasads has perhaps the least legroom of all cinemas in town. Tall people have to remember to ask for aisle seating (or the F row) if they want to concentrate on the movie and not on how ecstatic it would be to able to stretch their legs once.
The IMAX hall is certainly over-hyped. Screens being huge is not a plus - there's a reason that they maxed out at 70mm. The IMAX hall at Prasads is huge, but given the screen is also huge, if you do not get to sit in the top, say, 5 rows, it can feel even more tortuous than similar seating in one of the other 4 screens. It's almost a joke that you have to pay Rs. 150+ for that. And the legroom problems are just as pronounced. Numbering in IMAX starts from the bottom - A is the bottom-most row, as opposed to being the topmost at the other screens - so if you get say C-40, you're so, so screwed.
IMAX can, of course, be a treat if you get to sit high enough and if the movie was meant to be watched in IMAX format. Prasads however routinely screens normal films on the IMAX screen (and charges Rs. 150 for it), and you really should stay away unless you are desperate.
Being the first to bring professionalism to movie-screening however has its pluses - legacy always helps, no? And so Prasads is routinely mentioned - and shown - in Telugu films (as "IMAX theatre"), and that keeps adding to the hype. It's a dream upgrade for most youngsters who frequent Ramakrishna, Sensation and the X Road theatres, and an addictive upgrade - after you experience Prasads, you find it tough to go back to a place where the ticket-seller is restive and even abusive, the guy who gives you samosas with his hand also uses it to pick his nose or scratch his crotch, and the loos are a nightmare.
When it opened at Rs. 60 in 2002, almost twice Sangeet's peak rate at that time, few thought Prasads would be a roaring hit. At Rs. 100 today, it's just as frenetic. People care for the professionalism despite all the shortcomings, and the incessant crowds show it each passing day. Plus, Hyderabad is much richer than most of us realize.
And yes, that's a dream location in this concrete jungle, ain't it?