Category Archives: Facades

Aurora, Matunga

13 December, 2018
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Facades: Aurora (1942)

Vincent Road, King’s Circle, Matunga.

When Aurora was declared open on 12th March 1942, Matunga’s South Indian residents were relieved. They already had their cultural sabhas and gymkhana but were lacking a cinema. Resident Iyers and Iyengars would have to go to Dadar’s Broadway cinema on Sundays for special screenings of Tamil talkies. So, when Aurora’s doors were first thrown open (thanks to our B. D. Bharucha), Matunga’s residents had even less reason to leave their suburban sanctuary.

i. A Deco Wonderland

Aurora was a stately Art Deco cinema in the Deco wonderland of Matunga. Here in two- storeyed Deco structures like Kanti Mahal at Tejookaya Park, South Indian migrants to the city, experienced the novelty of living in flats, with the toilet attached!

The migrants quickly made Matunga their own South Indian suburb, far away from chaotic and cosmopolitan South Bombay. They established typing and shorthand institutes, messes and restaurants like Sharda Bhavan near Matunga Railway Station.

ii. Udipi + Irani

Have a filter coffee at Sharda Bhavan, which has all the charms of an Udipi restaurant and Irani café and hark back to the 1930s, when its founder Mr. Raghavendra Rao made his way from Udipi to Bombay.

iii. The Bombay Canteen

Drawing on Matunga’s original South Indian flavours of coconut and puli (tamarind), the team at The Bombay Canteen has created a cocktail with housemade coconut syrup and green tea infused tamarind juice. They named it Sikandar, after the spectacular historical picture that was screened at Aurora when it first opened. 

A Guidebook to the Talkies of Bombay is a daring collaboration between The Bombay Canteen, Please See and Bombaywalla Historical Works.🍹

This Monday, The Bombay Canteen was crowned India’s Best Restaurant at the Condé Nast Traveller & Himalayan Sparkling Top Restaurant Awards 2018. Whoopee, Whoopee Whoopee!!

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Plaza, Dadar

29 November, 2018
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Facades: Plaza (1935)

2-12/B, Foot of Tilak Bridge, Near Dadar Railway Station, Dadar.

All roads led north on 30th November 1935 for the gala opening of Plaza. A first- class cinema that had secured the second release rights for the best films premiering in Fort, Plaza brought the best of South Bombay to the suburbs. Not only did it save Dadar’s residents a long commute, it also offered a glare-free screen and a pleasant colour scheme. So, Plaza was no regular second run house, but a classy talkie cinema catering to the northern suburbs.

i. The Marathi Sisters

Plaza had a sister in South Bombay. Born a month later, Central at Charni Road was a two floor Deco wonder. Listed together in the local engagements section of the papers, screening Marathi movies by the late 1930s, sometimes simultaneously, Plaza and Central were close sisters. Central even added Plaza to her name and became Central Plaza!

Plaza catered to the Marathi residents of Dadar, Central to those of Girgaum. In the early years, ‘present-day problem pictures’ like Maza Mulaga (My Son) were a hit; in the 50s domestic dramas like Vahininchya Bangdya (Bhabhi’s angles) had a good run; and in the 1970s the tragicomedy Pinjara (Cage) broke all box office records, with its tale of an upright professor turned prisoner of passion.

For a local taste of shelter, flight and delight walk from Plaza to the Dadar Kabutarkhana, an iconic feeding ground and fountain for pigeons that was founded in 1933. Here you can be foot loose and fancy free, there is no fear of being caged or upstaged.

A Guidebook to the Talkies of Bombay is a daring collaboration between The Bombay Canteen, Please See and Bombaywalla Historical Works.🍹

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Alfred Talkies, Grant Rd.

23 November, 2018
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Facades: Alfred Talkies

Junction of Grant Road and Falkland Road.

Alfred was a real second run house, screening pictures that had their first run at cinemas on Lamington Road but were far from done. At Alfred they would show for another few weeks, before being shifted to another talkie in a different part of the city. That way, pictures were available to Bombay’s public for over twenty weeks, so if you missed the premier at Imperial at Lamington Road, you only had to stroll down to Alfred at the corner of Grant Road.

i. Ladies Of Pleasure

Alfred like Edward had a long history, starting off as Ripon Theatre in the 1890s and turning into Alfred Theatre in the 1920s and Alfred Talkies by the 1930s. Notice how Ripon Theatre still holds court on the stained-glass panel of the building’s façade.

The building stood in the heart of Bombay’s theatre district, that attracted talent from across the globe. Talent of another kind also arrived and the area soon emerged as an international red- light district with Ripon Theatre selling tickets specially priced for prostitutes at 1 Rupee.

ii.. Noodles, Teeth, And Noodles Stuck In Teeth

Attending to the dramatis personae of the area were a string of Chinese dentists providing painless extractions, permanent fillings in silver, cement or gold, and magic tooth drops. Dr. Hsiao Y. Ting and Dr. (Miss) Stephie Chen’s daat ka davakhanas can still be found dotting the area. Dr. Hsiao’s father had migrated to Bombay in the 1940s, opening his clinic in this mini- Chinatown. Nearby on Sukhlaji Street you can still find a China Compound and China Building, with only one family (of expert noodle-makers) left.

A Guidebook to the Talkies of Bombay is a daring collaboration between The Bombay Canteen, Please See and Bombaywalla Historical Works.🍹

We are thrilled that our Guidebook has featured on Homegrown.

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Imperial Cinema, Lamington Rd. 

15 November, 2018
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Facades: Imperial Cinema (1917)

Lamington Road, Near the Police Station. 

Imperial called the shots in the era of silent cinema so much so that when it opened on 7th April 1917, the seat of the cinema industry itself shifted to Lamington Road! Till then the adjacent Sandhurst Road held sway, with Bombay’s earliest cinemas appearing on the stretch. With the opening of Imperial, the action shifted to Lamington Road. Cinemas soon mushroomed in the area, our dynamic duo M. B. Bilimoria & B. D. Bharucha shifted their offices there, and reel and real life permeated so thoroughly that the scene on the street and on the screen were remarkably alike!

i. The Elephant Trail  

Imperial is built on the estate of elephants. First, at the side entrance a pair of adolescent elephants, learning to carry the weight of the world, will greet you ‘Welcome’; then at the other end of the plot, an adult elephant excited by your approach will raise his trunk to display his decorative howdah with ‘Wisdom Above Riches’ engraved. Around the corner are a pair of baby elephants guarding a gate, while an adult elephant engraved above is guarding them in turn.

ii. The Mangaldas Family

Elephants are indeed the symbol of the Mangaldas family, who owned the sprawling estate on which Imperial stands as well as the Bhangwadi Theatre not far from Edward Talkies. Headed by Sir Mangaldas Nathubhoy, a cotton mill magnate who belonged to the Kapol Bania community, the Mangaldas’ were one of Bombay’s leading business families.

iii. Laminated with Action 

Other than the genteel Mangaldas’, Lamington Road had all the action of the films showing at Imperial– two Pathans were hotly pursued by a crowd of a thousand people; an Irani tea shop keeper was lying in a pool of blood in his shop opposite the cinema; and pimps were offering ‘good looking European girls’ at Agripada.

It was time for Fearless Nadia a.k.a. Miss Frontier Mail to whip Lamington Road into shape.

A Guidebook to the Talkies of Bombay is a daring collaboration between The Bombay Canteen, Please See and Bombaywalla Historical Works.🍹

We are thrilled that our Guidebook has featured in this month’s
Architectural Digest.

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Edward Talkies, Dhobi Talao

9 November, 2018
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Edward Talkies (1933)

Kalbadevi Road, Dhobi Talao

Edward maybe a typical example of a theatre turned talkie, but the transition was anything but straightforward! Edward Theatre was turned into Alcazar Picture Palace and Victoria Cinema. It was briefly taken over by the ambitious Madan Theatres of Calcutta before it was rescued by our dynamic duo M. B. Bilimoria & B. D. Bharucha. Under Bilimoria & Bharucha’s management, it opened as Edward Talkies in July 1933, screening all kinds of ‘ jungle’ movies.

i. Out-Tarzan Tarzan

Edward Talkies opened with Tarzan the Ape Man a ‘giant romance of primitive life and unfettered love’ in which Tarzan lives by the law of the jungle and seizes what he adores. The theme proved so popular that several jungle serials were subsequently screened at Edward, some of which promised to ‘Out-Tarzan Tarzan’. In the thrilling Jungle Mystery two American adventurers find themselves caught in the midst of every conceivable animal from African lions and tigers to elephants, giraffes, leopards, hartebeests and more.

ii. The Elephant Trail

From Edward Talkies adventure north on Kalbadevi Road to hunt down the magnificent elephant of Bhangwadi Theatre. This long defunct theatre (located in an area which once had a host of shops selling the intoxicating beverage, Bhang) has only its striking façade to remind us of its heyday. Notice (and imbibe) the maxim ‘Wisdom Above Riches’ engraved on the elephant’s decorative howdah. Now get ready to meet six more elephants from the same family at our next talkie.

The team at The Bombay Canteen has seized what it adores- Sauza Gold Tequila, Smokey Single Malt, Pineapple, Honey Syrup- and created this concoction.
“Jungle juice poured in a monkey glass.
Disclaimer: Tropical ingredients might induce animal behaviour.”

A Guidebook to the Talkies of Bombay is a daring collaboration between The Bombay Canteen, Please See and Bombaywalla Historical Works.🍹

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