Category Archives: Structures

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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Karfule completes 80 years!

17 September, 2018
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Signage: Karfule (1938)

25 Sprott Road, Ballard Estate.

Karfule, Bombay’s most stylish service station, completes 80 years! Join us as we journey through the decades, from the day the foundation stone was laid for the structure to the opening ceremony of the station, right upto Wednesday 3rd October 2018, when the Sequeira family will celebrate 80 years of Karfule, recreating the menu and merriment of the original opening party!

Bombaywalla is proud to partner with Karfule for this special anniversary.

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K. N. Ajani turns a 100 years young!

11 July, 2018
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1. K. N. Ajani, the well-known manufacturers of nutcrackers, knives, scissors and locks, has turned a ‘100 years young’!2. The founder, Keshavji Narshi Ajani, knew a thing or two about staying young, regularly practicing yoga and displaying charts with various asanas across his premises. 3. His great-grandsons, Sanyam and Yash, have started young, attending to the shop during their summer vacations, under their father Paresh’s supervision. 4. Nutcrackers were the shop’s No. 1 item, in high demand from clients as diverse as the Indian Railways, bridal parties who wanted to test if the groom could cut a betel nut, and sticklers who wanted to check the quality of annas by cutting them.5. A popular Gujarati saying, Maro to suri vache supari jevo avatar che, uses the symbolism of a betel nut in a nutcracker to explain the difficulties of being caught in a no-win situation.6. Sales of pen knives and general knives increase in the mango season. 7. Scissors for general, tailoring or kitchen use, are one of their 4 main products.

Signage: K. N. Ajani (1918)

Shop No. 102, Krishna Gully, Swadeshi Market (formerly Morarji Goculdas Market), Kalbadevi Raod.

Young K. N. Ajani was so inspired by the Swadeshi movement that not only did he relocate his shop from Masjid Bunder to the Morarji Goculdas Market at Kalbadevi, the bastion of Swadeshi, he also switched from selling standard cloth to manufacturing nutcrackers, knives, scissors and locks!

By 1919, M. K. Gandhi was visiting the Morarji Goculdas Market twice a month, presiding over the Swadeshi Sabha held in the Market Hall or inaugurating a new Swadeshi store. Speaking in Gujarati, Gandhi scolded the people of Bombay who took to speculation in shares and did not care to help ‘the real industry of the country’.

By the 1930s, Swadeshi had suffused the Morarji Goculdas Market so much so that it began to be called the Swadeshi Market! And while the other major markets in the area were stuck negotiating the conflicts between their foreign and Swadeshi sections, Swadeshi Market was smoothly selling small Indian industry.

Photos by the tall industry Hashim Badani. Thanks to Farrokh Jijina for his assistance with the Gujarati.

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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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Waterproofs & Whiteaway

29 March, 2018
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Signage: Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co. (1895)

Department Store, 32 Hornby Road, Fort. (1954 onwards, the Khadi and Village Industries Emporium, 286 Dadabhai Naoroji {D.N.} Road).

Waterproofs were Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co.’s capital range of clothing.

When the firm operated from a small, cramped premises at the Esplanade, they marketed their waterproof coats and capes as the ‘Cheapest Waterproofs in Bombay’. Thoroughly serviceable, excellent and durable, their waterproofs were so well priced that ladies were encouraged to visit their store before making a trip to the bazaar.

When Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co. moved into their handsome and commodious premises on Hornby Road in 1895, built especially as a department store for the firm, their waterproofs got even more attention- a special display for ladies’ and gentleman’s waterproofs and a fine show of waterproof carriage aprons, that prepared Bombay’s buggy drivers and passengers for the impending monsoons.

The monogram WL&Co. at the entrance of the premises reminds us of a time when the department store was in capital demand.

Photo by Hersh Acharya.

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