Saturday 15 December 2012

When Elgin passed into oblivion

Almost an year ago, that is on December 29, 2011, a little bit of Bangalore’s heritage passed into the realms of history. The reel life merged into the real life, finally showing that the reel could only imitate real for some time and not for all times.
The reel of  Elgin Talkies, one of South India’s oldest theatre, finally stopped, albeit permanently.
An iconic theatre, the Elgin situated in the erstwhile Blackpalli area which subsequently became Shivajinagar, was a reminder of the once glorious past of Bangalore. But not anymore. The theatre finally shut shop in 2011 after several decades of showing reel life to people.
Apart from being one of the oldest theatre in south India, Elgin has also the distinction of  being run by the same family for the entire duration of its operation.
The Mudaliar family built the theatre in 1896 and remember this was the year that Luminere brothers came to Bombay (now Mumbai) and demonstrated a reel of silent cinema. Since then, Elgin had remained a part of Bangalore’s priceless heritage, adored by the family that built it, revered by the knowledgble film buffs and cheered on by the audiences that came to feel the first hand experience of one of the oldest buildings of Bangalore.
Four generations of the Mudaliar family took care of the Elgin right from its inception by Veerabhadra Mudaliar. The Elgin remained the same till 1996 when it came to be first renovated. Till then, nothing had changed at Elgin and even time had stood still.
Though the viewers came in droves, the seating arrangement which was put in place in 1896 remained the same for exactly one hundred years. It was only in 1996, that new seating made its presence felt.
However, many other things in the Elgin remained the same. The Simplex manual Projector, which is unique because it has an inbuilt audio system, was still being used. It was installed first in Elgin sometime in 1931. The projector needed constant care and spares were available in Bangalore itself.
When the Elgin closed down after one last hurrah at the box office, the projector was still in running condition.
Like its building, the projector too passed into history. And very much like the Elgin, the projector too had its share of  limelight.    
To Elgin goes the credit of being part of Indian film history when it screened the first Hindi  movie ever made-Alam Ara-in 1932.
The projector has screened itself into celluloid history-showing silent films from 1907 to 1932 and later Hindi classics and potboilers.
Unlike the modern projectors, the Simplex manual needs two men to operate. While one person operates the machine for the show, the other has to roll out the used reels back for the next show.
Even today, residents of  Shivajinagar and scores of old-timers recollect how they paid just 60 paise for a ticket at the stalls and Rs 1.95 for the balcony. The balcony was closed a few years ago but the ticket costed about Rs. 25.
When it closed down, Elgin had four shows.
In 1939, the Elgin was transformed into a cinema theatre from earlier being a talkies. Till them it had catered to audiences for plays and dramas.  It was a real treat to watch a movie here as the many small eateries around the theatre had mouth watering food.
Though away from the Gandhinagar crowd, Elgin managed to make a name for itself.      

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