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