Thursday 13 December 2012

Once upon a time.......

A few days ago, I was strolling across MG Road when I happened to pass near the MG Road metro Station.
The Metro station looked neat and clean. The interiors are done up well and there are sufficient facilities for passengers, including physically challenged.
While I was admiring the new technology that makes commuting easier, I happened to glance across the road and found that where the once beautiful Plaza Theatre stood, there was only a mass of construction materials.
I boarded the Metro, remembering the many English cinemas hat were screened at Plaza. When the metro reached the Trinity station, I happened to look out and once again I was transported decades back to an age when the Lido theatre screened movies.
Both the Plaza and Galaxy are gone, victims of growing urbanization as are several other theatres in the area-Blue Moon and Blue Diamond on MG Road and near Plaza, Opera at the junction of  Brigade Road and Residency Road and in front of Rex.
Even as the Metro was moving smoothly, memories of Bangalore and its theatres came back.
Bangalore has the distinction of having the first ever theatre in south India-Elgin in Shivajinagar.  The theatre boom in the 1950s and 1960s was similar to the boom in malls that we see today. Wherever we went in Bangalore those days, we saw posters of Raj Kumar, Shivaji Ganeshan, NTR peering from huge cutouts that adorned theatres on Kempe Gowda Road, Malleswaram and  MG Road.
Till the 1990s, cinema goers in Bangalore were spoilt for their choice. Films in several languages including Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and even Bengali, apart from English were regularly screened.
While viewers in other cities had to depend on film festivals to see films from other languages, Bangalore had no such problem. Films of all genre ranging from the regular potboiler Sholay to the intense Deewar and subtle Moondram Pillai were screened for several weeks, drawing huge crowds.
Raj Kumar was as much of a draw as was Rajanikanth,  Kamalhassan in Tamil, NTR and Nageshwar Rao in Telugu, Mohanlal and Mamothy in Malayalam.
The Kempe Gowda Road from Mysore Bank Circle had the highest number of theatres in a square area in the world. The theatres here were chock-a-block with eateries besides them and they drew a large number of floating population that descended into Majestic from all over India.
At one time, this area called Gandhinagar had 24 theatres and it, therefore, emerged as the capital of the Kannada celluloid world. Gandhinagar and its lanes were well-known as the lifeline of the Kannada film industry. The locality became so famous that a film with Rakjkumar called Gandhinagar was made in 1962.      
Generally, the morning shows in theatres on Kempe Gowda Road and BVK Iyengar Road screened Malayalam and Bengali movies. Some of the theatres that I remember on the this road were Prabhat (at the beginning of KG Road coming from Mysore Bank Square), States (opposite to Prabhat), Santosh, Kailash, Aparna, Sagar, Kempe Gowda, Himalaya, Tribhuvan, Geeta, Triveni and  Majestic. Movieland was a little further away. (This area is loosely termed Sandalwood as it has many film production, distribution, finance companies)
The first theatre with sophisticated equipments and seating was the Alankar which came up in the late 1950s on Kempe Gowda Road. Soon others followed suit like Kalpana, Menaka, Abhinay, Kapali and Tribhuvan.
By the early 1970s, there were 14 theatres in and around Majestic area. Today, only two of them- States and Sagar, apart from Nartaki are holding fort.
The Shivaji theatre on JC Road showed Tamil films. The Minerva, also on JC Road had a circle named after it. Today, the circle survives but not the theatre.
The theatres then were broadly divided into those in the civil area and those in the Cantonment. Theatres in the Cantonment –MG Road, Brigade Road, Residency Road, Ulsoor and even Shivajinagar-generally catered to English and Tamil speaking audiences. Even in this island  of little England, New Opera and Empire showed regional language films.
Liberty (earlier called Globe), Plaza, Rex, Lido and Imperial screened English classics and new English films, while Vijayalakshmi in Chickpet and Bharat on JC Road showed old films and reruns of  hits.
BVR on Cubbon Road and Central Street Junction had stopped screening films and it made way for the Defence canteen. A little down the road (Central Street) is Sangeeth which screened Tamil and Kannada films.  The twin theatres of Bluemoon and Blue Diamond on MG Road was a favourite as it was located amidst shops. 
Vijayalakshmi was well-known among the student community as they gave a discount of 50 paise to students, seating them at the back.
The busy City Market had three theatres including Parmount.  Jayanagar had theatres like Nanda near South End-this has vanished- and Swagath which has made way for Swagath Mall and Puttanna which has been demolished. Shanti was another theatre off South End and this has disappeared in history but the name still stands.
Chamarajpet, the bastion of the Kannada movement, had Uma and Apsara theatres which came up in the 70s. The Sampige theatre in Malleswaram, Swastik in Seshadripuram and Navarang in Rajajinagar were big draws because of the closeness of the bus stops near them.      
Bangalore had once so many theatres that it was called the world capital of theatres. The highest number of theatres in the world was in Bangalore. However, with growing urbanisation, the theatres have made way for malls, commercial and business establishments.
Malls and multiplexes have replaced theatres and eve the audience seems to be more inclined towards them than theatres.
High taxes, tight Government control and archaic rules and regulations have driven theatres into a corner. The stiff competition from multiplexes have driven theaters to the wall. Yet, many in Bangalore survive, showcasing the majesty of the reel over the real.
There are about 140 theatres in Bangalore today.

1 comment:

  1. old sweet memories of the golden era of our bangalore.thaks for yor post.