Category Archives: Facades

Palace Talkies, Byculla

2 November, 2018
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Facades: Palace Talkies (1932)

Parel Road, Near Byculla Railway Station.

Designed as a talking picture palace, constructed at the cost of over a lakh and a half, and inaugurated by the mayor of Bombay on 2nd July 1932, Palace Talkies unabashedly announced that the talkies were here to stay in Bombay. Just the year before, India’s first talkie Alam Ara, had been released by Imperial Movi-tone studios in Bombay. Now with the opening of Palace, both Indian and international ‘All Talking, Singing & Dancing’ pictures could be screened at the state of the art talkie house, located near Byculla Railway Station.

i. Bilimoria & Bharucha

Palace Talkies was owned by the dynamic duo, Messrs. M. B. Bilimoria & B. D. Bharucha. The duo first met at the Parsi well at Churchgate; Bilimoria was an upcoming film distributor, Bharucha a chemist with Kemp & Co., fed-up with his job.

They decided to partner and form the All India Theatres Syndicate Limited, a company that would, in the span of a decade, manage many of the talkie houses across Bombay.

Bharucha lived at Palace Talkies itself, on the first floor of a wing of the spacious premises. Through a small bridge (now missing from the property), Bharucha could walk across to the auditorium equipped with the latest Western Electric Sound System. Musical comedies, with their gorgeous dance ensembles and tinkling musical numbers, drew packed audiences in Palace’s early years, with reruns of the hits showing during the Diwali and Easter holidays.

ii. A Regal Affair

Catering to the Easter audiences with plum and almond cakes was Regal Bakery, located on the ground floor of the Palace premises. Opened in the same year as the talkie house, Regal soon made the news for its fresh bakery products and keen prices. On your next visit to Palace Talkies, relive the ‘all-talking’ 1930s by taking a break at Regal for chai and iced cake.

Drawing on the plum flavours at Regal Bakery and the hit musical comedy “Whoopee”, that was screened at Palace Talkies in the year of its opening, The Bombay Canteen has created this zany cocktail.

Enjoy this post while listening to Makin’ Whoopee.

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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‘Every Pen, A Pleasure.’

30 May, 2018
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Facades: Bombay Pen Corner

Hornby Road, Fort, presently Dadabhai Naoroji {D.N.} Road.

By the 20th century, fountain pens in Bombay were edging out ‘fickle’ steel pens, promising greater satisfaction, velvet smooth points of solid gold and the best hard rubber holders.

The Crown Fountain Pen appealed to the preacher and teacher. The Blackbird Fountain Pen was for boys. The Swan when the boys got older. And the stylish Parker Vacumatic, when they joined the jet set.

Indeed, it was pens that made boys into men, teaching them about ‘satisfaction’ and ‘safety’, ‘performance’ and ‘pleasure’.

Finding that D. N. Road is now dominated by women, the Bombay Pen Corner has moved on from pens to making name plates and rubber stamps.

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A royal riot

6 November, 2015
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Facades: Prince of Wales Seamen’s Club (1921)

The Royal Bombay Seamen’s Society, Ballard Estate.

While the Prince of Wales was busy inaugurating institutions named after himself in Bombay in November 1921, all was not well in the city during his visit.

Gandhi’s satyagraha volunteers had taken to the streets urging Bombay’s citizens to boycott the public reception of the Prince. Bonfires of foreign cloth were made in protest.

Things went awry when Gandhi’s volunteers clashed with the citizens who chose to attend the Prince’s reception, particularly the city’s Parsis and Europeans. A major riot ensued. Parsis and Europeans were identified by their distinct hats and western clothes and attacked by the volunteers.

Later in the day, the Parsis and Europeans regrouped and exacted retribution, identifying the volunteers by their Gandhi caps and khadi dress and shouting, ‘Gandhi topiwalllah ko pakro’, ‘maro salah ko’ (catch the Gandhi cap wearers, beat the rascals).

Hersh Acharya captures some of the responses the Prince of Wales currently elicits in Bombay.

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The inauguration of the exhibition ‘Deco on the Oval: Celebrating Bombay’s Best Loved Art Deco Facades’

31 July, 2015
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IMG_2304_1 1. A reconstructed elevation of Sorab Mansion, a prominent building in the Oval precinct.

IMG_2347_1 2. Ashad Mehta, chartered accountant and president of the Oval-Cooperage Residents Association (OCRA), standing alongside the elevation of Empress Court, in which he stays.

IMG_2343_13. Shirin Bharucha, lawyer, conservation activist and founding member of OCRA, alongside the elevation of Rusi Court, in which she stays.

IMG_2333_14. Gerson da Cunha, actor and former adman, alongside the elevation of Fair Lawn, in which he stays.

IMG_2320_1 5. Professor Mustansir Dalvi, curator of the exhibition, and noted senior architect Kamu Iyer stand alongside early photographs of the Oval buildings.

IMG_2362_1 6. Architect Shantanu Subramaniam and Smita Dalvi, Associate Professor at Pillai College of Architecture.

IMG_2326_1 7. Models of the famous Art Deco buildings on Miami Beach.

IMG_2330_1 8. Issues of Shilpasagar, the annual magazine of the Sir J. J. College of Architecture. The magazine is impressively launched each year with a video, presenting an overview of the issue.

IMG_24209. The collection of souvenirs available for sale at the exhibition are the finest we have ever seen (and bought).

IMG_2358_110. Mustansir Dalvi and the talented Exhibition Team.

Facades: The Claude Batley Gallery

Sir J.J. College of Architecture, 78/3 Hornby Road (presently D.N. Road).

The Art Deco buildings in Bombay’s Oval precinct get the attention they deserve at the exhibition ‘Deco on the Oval: Celebrating Bombay’s Best Loved Art Deco Facades’ at the Sir J. J. College of Architecture. The facades and details of the buildings have been meticulously and stylishly documented as a series of 17 elevations, drawn by the students of the College and curated by Professor Mustansir Dalvi. Dalvi’s curatorial note offers a historical context for the Art Deco boom in Bombay in the 1930s-40s as well as elucidates the value of the buildings:

“The Art Deco buildings on the Oval are special as they demonstrate, simultaneously, a collective language that creates an urban fabric while individually allowing full vent to creative expression, each competing with the other, either in flamboyance or subdued sophistication. This was the result of building regulations that made all the apartment blocks toe the same frontage, have the same height and floor lines, a prominent entrance and stairwell and a clear line of flat roofs. The rules, however seem to have liberated the architects rather than stifle them. Even within these framed parameters there is free expression of shape, pattern and symbolism, making these some of the most vocal facades in the city.”

‘Deco on the Oval’ is on at The Claude Batley Gallery, Sir J. J. College of Architecture, from 28th July to 15th August, 10am to 5pm.

Jazzy tunes from Naresh Fernandes’ Taj Mahal Foxtrot (Roli Books) will keep you in step with the structures at the exhibition.

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The battle of the knights

3 November, 2014
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Facades: Sir Hurkisondas Nurrotumdas Hospital (1925)

Facades: Sir Hurkisondas Nurrotumdas Hospital

(1925), presently Sir H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital And Research Centre (2014), New Queen’s Road.

Sir Harkisondas Narotumdas is cross. He cannot fathom how some newbie knight called Sir H. N. Reliance could colonise his 89 year old medical establishment at New Queen’s Road.

Sir Harkisondas has dispatched a letter to Her Majesty for the immediate resolution of this grievous injustice.

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