Changes between Initial Version and Version 1 of Madan Theatres

Jun 25, 2012, 4:50:21 PM (10 years ago)



  • Madan Theatres

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     1'''Madan Theatres''' 
     3Giant distribution corporation and studio 
     4which dominated India’s silent cinema. Built by 
     5Jamshedji Framji Madan (1856-1923) into one 
     6of the country’s premier Parsee theatre 
     7companies. J.F. Madan came from a middleclass 
     8Bombay Parsee family of theatre 
     9enthusiasts: his brother Khurshedji was a 
     10partner in the Original Victoria Theatrical Club 
     11while Jamshedji and another brother, Pestonji, 
     12started as actors. Jamshedji acted in 
     13Nusserwanji Parekh’s Sulemani Shamsher 
     14(1873, produced by Elphinstone), while 
     15Pestonjee played lead roles in two famous 
     16plays, Eduljee Khori’s Gul-e-Bakavali and 
     17Jehangir, staged by Dadabhai Thunthi. In the 
     181890s, J.F. Madan bought two prominent 
     19theatre companies, the Elphinstone and the 
     20Khatau-Alfred, including their creative staff and 
     21the rights to their repertoire. Shifted his base to 
     22Calcutta in 1902, establishing J.F. Madan & Sons 
     23(maintaining his other interests like 
     24pharmaceuticals). By 1919, J.F. Madan & Sons 
     25had become the joint stock company Madan 
     26Theatres, running the Elphinstone Theatrical 
     27Co. (expanding from the Elphinstone Picture 
     28Palace and the ancestor of the Elphinstone 
     29Bioscope) and its flagship organisation, the 
     30Corinthian Theatre. They employed several of 
     31the leading Urdu-Hindi playwrights 
     32(Kashmiri, Betaab) and stars (Patience 
     33Cooper, Seeta Devi). Some historians claim 
     34that J.F. Madan started showing films in a tent 
     35bioscope in 1902 on the Calcutta maidan, but it 
     36is more likely that the Madans did not seriously 
     37get into film until 1905, financing some of 
     38Jyotish Sarkar’s documentaries (e.g. Great 
     39Bengal Partition Movement, 1905) which they 
     40presented at the Elphinstone. In 1907 the 
     41Elphinstone followed the Minerva and Star 
     42theatres (see Hiralal Sen) and went into 
     43exhibition and distribution, winning the agency 
     44rights for Pathé, who also represented First 
     45National. They expanded by buying or leasing 
     46theatres located in urban areas with European 
     47residents, commanding higher ticket prices and 
     48catering to the British armed forces before and 
     49during WW1. On J.F. Madan’s death, the third 
     50of his five sons, Jeejeebhoy Jamshedji Madan, 
     51took over and expanded the empire, 
     52continuing to direct some of the company’s 
     53films. By 1927 the Madan distribution chain 
     54controlled c.1/2 of India’s permanent cinemas. 
     55At their peak they owned 172 theatres and 
     56earned half the national box office. Up to WW1 
     57they showed mainly British films supplied by 
     58the Rangoon-based London Film, but after the 
     59war they imported Metro and United Artists 
     60product, mostly bought ‘blind’ with rights for 
     61the entire subcontinent. Many of these they 
     62appear to have distributed as their own 
     63productions, e.g. Wages of Sin (1924) and 
     64Flame of Love (1926), which Virchand 
     65Dharamsey’s recent filmography of silent 
     66cinema (Light of Asia, 1994) identifies as 
     67imports, contrary to the claims made in their 
     68initial advertising. By the mid-20s they were the 
     69first of the five major importers of Hollywood 
     70films, followed by Pathé, Universal, Globe and 
     71Pancholi’s Empire distributors. In the silent 
     72era, their exhibition and distribution were more 
     73important than their production work, mainly 
     74making shorts for export until Satyavadi Raja 
     75Harishchandra (1917) and Dotiwala’s 
     76Bilwamangal (1919; the first Bengali feature) 
     77both proved successful. Their early features 
     78were mainly filmed plays, converting their 
     79playwrights into scenarists and their actors into 
     80stars. Many were directed by C. Legrand, 
     81formerly a Pathé man, and later by Jyotish 
     82Bannerjee. Claimed to have done 
     83international co-productions, although Savitri 
     84(1923) made by Giorgio Mannini for Cines in 
     85Rome and starring Rina De Liguoro opposite 
     86Angelo Ferrari, probably was not co-produced 
     87but only released by Madan. However, he did 
     88work with the Italian cineaste E.D. Liguoro and 
     89cameraman T. Marconi. In the early 20s, the 
     90Madans also acquired the rights to the major 
     9119th C. Bengali novelist Bankimchandra 
     92Chattopadhyay’s writings, forming the basis of 
     93their ‘literary film’ genre which came to 
     94dominate Bengali cinema for several decades. 
     95By the end of the silent era the group had 
     96become too large for its managerial structure. It 
     97invested heavily into sound after it premiered 
     98Universal’s Melody of Love at the Elphinstone 
     99Bioscope (1928) and made the expensive 
     100Shirin Farhad (1931, narrowly beaten by 
     101Alam Ara as India’s first sound film), Amar 
     102Choudhury’s Jamai Sasthi (1931, the first 
     103Bengali sound feature) and Indrasabha 
     104(1932). Their closure in the late 30s is usually 
     105blamed on a failed deal with Columbia but this 
     106may only have put the final seal on a decline 
     107caused by crippling sound conversion costs, 
     108the stabilisation of film imports and the spread 
     109of the more efficient managing-agency system 
     110able to attract more speculative financing.