wiki:Plaza (Bangalore)

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Plaza (Bangalore)

Plaza Theatre located on M.G.Road, Bangalore was a premier movie theatre that started operations in 1936 and had its last screening on March 17, 2005. It now serves as the central station for the Bangalore Metro

Arcot Narrain Swamy Mudaliar was born at Arcot on 14 May 1827, After his father Muniappa Mudaliar paased away when Narrainsawmy was ten years old, the youngster had to support his widowed mother and two younger brothers. He never had an opportunity to study English, but was well versed in his mother tongue - Tamil. During his formative years he studied and acquired a deep knowledge of ancient Tamil literature, which moulded his character and inspired his thoughts and outlook throughout his life. Mudaliar married Govindammal in 1850 when he was 23 1 .

Mudaliar commenced his commercial activity initially as a travelling salesman transporting vegetables which were available at a low price in Bangalore, and selling them at Madras, where they were in great demand. After gaining considerable profit and experience from this trade, he started transporting salt from Madras and selling it in Bangalore. Mudaliar's self reliance, resourcefulness and perseverance enabled him to earn considerable profit from this two-way trade. With this capital, he opened a grocery shop on Cavalry road and later a branch in the Infantry Barracks.

In the year 1859, he was granted the Royal patronage of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, the Maharaja of Mysore. As a token of gratitude to his Royal Patron, Mudaliar named his Emporium on Cavalry road as ‘Mysore Hall’. Later, Mudaliar ventured into a new line of business with Messrs. Wallace & Co. in partnership with Rai Bahadur Bansilal-Ramrathan, who had secured from Col.Sankey, Chief Engineer to the Government of Mysore, the contract for the construction of the New Public Offices or the 'Athara Cutcherry' or the high court.

From the money he earned out of it, he purchased a number of properties on M. G. Road including a 17,000 sq ft (1,600 m2) property on No. 18, South Parade (the original name for MG Road) in 1873 which he set up a furniture store “Bangalore Furniture Mart” over which the Plaza theatre was eventually built.

The Original furniture shop (From the family collection)

An important philanthropist Narrain Swamy set up a number of schools for the poor and on 1st January 1877 Lord Lytton, the Viceroy of India, conferred on Mudaliar the title of 'Rai Bahadur' in recognition of his spirited acts of charity 2. Bipin Chandrapal served as the first headmaster of the now-renamed Arcot Sri Narrainswamy Mudaliar Free English High School during 1891-92.

After the Arcot family settlement of 1923 the family property was split between two brothers. Arcot Krishnamurthy and his brother Rajamanickam Velu were the grandsons of ANSM set up Plaza.

Arcot Krishnamurthy got married but his wife passed away soon after giving birth to their first son. After his wife's death he went into depression and his family decided to send him to England in 1930 to help him recover. He traveled from Bangalore to Madras to Aden and then to London where he fell in love with movies and decides to come back and set up a theatre in Bangalore modelling it on the Plaza in Piccadilly circus.

Plaza in Picadilly Circus, London

After returning he bought a lorry and sets up a 16 MM cinema projection on it which he travels with to the cantonment areas to show short films to the British soldiers in the military camps in the Cantonment3. After Plaza was set up the same lorry was used to show advertise the films that were being shown in Plaza. He then mortgaged the property on MG Road to Asiatic Mortgage Company to raise money to build the theatre

The architect of Plaza was Richardson and Cruddas of Bombay 4 and the equipment for the new theatre was obtained from Century Film. There was also a ballroom and a Bar “Silver Screen Specials” in the balcony which conducted dances for the British soldiers with a live orchestra 5 . On the first floor of the theatre was a 50-foot-square wooden dance floor, used for the annual Christmas Ball and New Year Ball, and for balls held to herald major motion pictures releases.

Plaza was inaugurated on March 10, 1936. There were two shows, and 433 seats were filled up on the first day. Two films were screened every week, with three shows each day. The first film Broadway Melody to be show was in 1936. In 1936, tickets were priced between 9 annas and Rs 2 and 8 annas — from Gandhi Class to Dress Circle. In 1960, the rates went up to 75 paise and Rs 2.75. By 2005, the balcony tickets were selling at Rs 706.

For the first show everything had been set up but when they started the projection of the film, they found that the film was being projected slightly above the screen because of the height of where the projector was and they had to tilt the angle of the projector and the projector was tilted ever since.

At Plaza's opening ceremony, to seat the chief guest in style, a sofa was borrowed from the house next door, in which lived Mr. Jose Mariano Dias and his family. This house was demolished and, decades later, made way for the Blu Moon theatre complex, which was demolished to make way for a shopping complex. Mr. Dias, one of the earliest Goans to migrate to Bangalore, ran Dias Music Salon, a stone's throw from his house. He opened the shop, which sold musical instruments, in 1927, and was a violinist who played for silent movies at Globe (before the talkies arrived, every cinema had an orchestra in the pit which provided background music). After his death the shop was run by his daughter, Irene, and her husband, John Lemos, until it was sold and turned into a Zodiac tie showroom, which morphed into a snack shop 7. Irene who, along with her sister, used to hop across next door to see movies for free because the kindly ushers would sneak the girls in after the paying crowd had entered.

The second world war was the best time for the theatre when it did the best business with the influx of soldiers form many parts of the country but after independence the theatre struggled for a few years and it was only in the mid fifties with the popularity of Indian audiences for English films that the theatre started doing well again. For a long time the primary audience were anglo Indian families. In the fifties going to Plaza was a major event for many families who treated it akin to going for a picnic with many preparing their trip, dressed in their best and a number of families would come from the other part of Bangalore- the old Bangalore. The two brothers were also influenced by Gandhi and Nehru and Rajamanickam Velu wanted to join the Congress. During the war they also had to play a lot of wartime propaganda films.

Remembering Plaza 1
("My, you've awakened so many old memories," she tells me, while recounting the late '30s when as a pre-teen she began frequenting the then-grand theatre. "We were never allowed to go alone; in the beginning our father would take us, then male cousins would accompany us." It was full of "Tommies"; British soldiers, who were always looking to make friends with girls, she says. "But the soldiers were very polite, never bothered us." Young children would be given money to "go to the movies" and the boys would buy four anna tickets and save the rest for nuts, while the girls would sit in style in the eight anna seats, constantly watched by their worried brothers, checking on them. "The seats got more expensive the further back you went, and we'd look at the box seats with such awe... we never even knew anyone there," Muriel laughs. But later, as an Army Officer's wife, I was sitting in those same seats! Lovely films came to Plaza and once you began watching films, the desire to keep going back just grew! Muriel Texeira, 88) Muriel Texeira, 88 (Hindu)
Remembering Plaza 2
(It was in the summer of 1959 that I saw Curtiz’ White Christmas at Plaza. My neighbours on Richmond Road - Paul, Stuart and Sylvia - took me there. As a little kid, I was dazzled by the colour and distracted by the popcorn and tomfoolery with the boys! Not the best way to see a musical comedy. But somehow the outing planted the seeds of a life-long fascination for cinema. White Christmas was the first of many films I’d see at Plaza. The shows there had a set routine: Music for 15 minutes before the lights dimmed and the slide ads came on, followed by a boring B/W newsreel, trailers and then the main feature. In all, two-hours of movie excitement that had popcorn and other munchies, either brought to us by a vendor to our seats or from the kiosk outside. Plaza had three shows daily. Most movies played from Friday to Thursday. Ticket prices ranged from annas eight for the front stalls to Rs 1 and annas 12 for the highest seat in the balcony, the Dress Circle. A time when Crown Café, Brigade Road, had ice cream for annas four! (Bangalore Buzz)

Crows line up to watch The Ten Commandments

Celebrating the 4th week of The Ten Commandments: (In the picture are many members of the Narrain family including A K Ananth Narrain)

Interview with A K Ananth Narrain, Owner, Plaza Theatre
(I studied at the Bishop Cottons school and the first film that I saw in Plaza was The Three Musketeers (with Lana Turner) which I had been taken to by some of the elders. I subsequently saw the film seventeen to eighteen times. At the age of ten I used to drive the lorry that my father had bought to show films and it was subsequently used to advertise films that were being shown in Plaza. I passed out of college in 1958 and on the last day of college I took my entire class to watch a film in Plaza (a tradition that was continued by my children and all my nephews and nieces as well) and we saw Devil’s Island, a Bogart film. In 1964 all of us (the sons) were made a part of the partnership and I started getting actively involved with the running of the theatre. At that point (1964) I had become a teacher teaching English and mathematics at the RBANMS school. Around this time I also took more of an interest in the business and moved into a small room behind the screen and started living there. There used to be a lots of Rats in the theatre which would come out after everyone had left after the last show and it was a bit of a hazard living in the theatre. In the sixties the audience for films had changed with a lot of younger people watching films 8 and the movies that were popular were the more action oriented film of the time ( Atari, Guns of Naverone, Psycho and then the Bond films)9 . Suchitra Film Society organized a film festival in Plaza for which the Maharajah had a special seat and there was also a separate section for women in Purdah (which created a lot of problems in the walkway). One of the most popular films of Plaza was the 10 commandments which ran for 44 weeks 10 though the record was held by Enter the Dragon in Galaxy which ran for 52 weeks 11 . If a film ran for four weeks then it was considered a hit. Another film that was very popular was Grease 2. There was one particular chap who came to see it every day and when one particular song played, he would start dancing in the aisles. One day he came to me with 49 stubs of tickets and said that he had seen the film 49 times and he demanded a free ticket for his fiftieth show. While I thought that it is because of fools like you that we make money, I gave him a free ticket to watch the film. In the emergency years we all were mandated to play the national anthem before the screening of each film and all the theatre owners of Bangalore were called in for a meeting with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and told that theatres were in charge of inculcating respect for the nation. At that time all the theatre owners were also showing losses except for Plaza. I got married in 1972 and at that point of time there was a crisis since there was a ban on the importing of films and there were no new films that were available and we had to survive on reruns and playing old films. So when I went to invite people from the film fraternity for the wedding and announced that I had some good news, they immediately enquired whether the ban on importing of films had been lifted. The situation was so bad that Rex started showing Malayalam films. There was also a lot of censorship and Indira Gandhi who had seen a film with the Can Can announced that thee should be no vulgar display of a woman’s body)

The Demolition of Plaza Theatre: Image with Screen removed

With the advent of multiplexes in the late Nineties, singlescreen theatres started running out of business. That’s when the family decided to sell the theatre. The last movie screened was Meet the Fockers — on March 17, 2005. The theatre was then sold to Shravanee Properties Limited, owned by a miner who wanted to build a commercial complex. But before he could get his project started, the BMRCL notified the space for Metro. The oldest surviving landmark on South Parade was brought down to make way for the Metro. Six years after the movie hall shut down, the family wants to preserve the city’s heritage by offering old photographs of Bangalore’s treasured cinema house for BMRCL to display at the station which stands on the other side. One is a black-and-white picture clicked in 1938 and the other a colour photograph taken in 1994. “I was the co-owner of the erstwhile Plaza theatre which our family ran from 1936 to 2005. I am enclosing on behalf of the family two photos of the theatre. After approval from your end, we are prepared to donate a photograph of any size and framing of any kind for display in the MG Road Station,’’ A K Ananth Narrain wrote to BMRCL managing director N Sivasailam on September 29. He never got a reply from the BMRCL.

  1. 1. Arcot Narrainsawmy Mudaliar. See also, Aliyeh Rizvi, On Veerapillai Street
  2. 2. Marianne Furtado De Nazareth, Old is indeed gold, The Mysore Gazette of 1897 says that the principal high schools located in Bangalore Cantonment were Bishop Cottons, St. Andrews, Baldwins and other convent' schools for Europeans, with Narrainswamy Mudaliar's institution reserved for natives'
  3. 3. Plaza was special to many generations. Brig LERB Ferris AVSM (retd) remembers the Dress Circle, “You had to be well dressed to sit there. Young officers like me sat with our British seniors and watched the likes of glamorous Hedy Lamarr. The lady was hot property and had a reputation for playing sultry roles". Curtain call for plaza
  4. 4. Established in 1858, R&C Ltd. has grown into an engineering establishment. Nationalized by Act of Parliament in the year 1972. Richardson & Cruddas (1972) Ltd. has grown into an Engineering Enterprises in fabrication of various process equipments meeting the needs of Power Sector, Steel Manufacturing Plants, Railways, Oil & Gas, Fertilizers, Sugar Industries, Atomic Energy, Space, Water & Sewage Treatment Plants transmission line Towers fabrication and galvanising Testing of transmission line towers etc. R&C has four manufacturing units, two located in Mumbai at Byculla and Mulund, one at Nagpur and one at Chennai. R&C's corporate office is located at Byculla, Mumbai and has liasoning offices in New Delhi and Kolkata.
  5. 5. During the intermission”, remembers Pratap Chettur, “The Britishers had their personal bearers at the bar, waiting on cue, to serve scotch and soda or a gimlet.” The wooden dance floor saw a lot of action with officers boogying or doing a quickstep. No doubt inspired by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing to Porter’s Night and Day and The Continental. Curtain call for plaza
  6. 6. Last down-memory trip before boarding the metro to future
  7. 7. Picturing the past
  8. 8. In Bangalore, there was no real other entertainment," Premchand says of the theatre in the '60s and '70s, "so there was a good movie-going crowd. The Saturday matinees would be really crowded, with the big Mount Carmel bus ferrying in the hostellers.
  9. 9. Whenever Kumar ran short of funds, he used to sell old news papers to finance his movie ticket.DK Ramu’s father was an Executive Engineer in the State Electricity Board ,with MG Road under his jurisdiction. DK was often the recipient of passes for movie shows distributed by the theatre owners to keep dad in good humor. The largesse extended to some of us; on condition that we met his bus fare and tiffin charges. In this mutually beneficial arrangement ,we saw ‘Kissing Cousins’ an ‘A’ film starring Elvis Presley. For this land mark occasion, four of us dressed up in trousers and shirt to enhance our looks, hoping the ticket collector would allow us into an ‘adult’ movie without any fuss. We got to see a man and a woman kiss on screen for the first time. What an exciting experience! Eating ‘Puffs’ and ‘Peanut Bars’ in Plaza Theatre was the ‘done thing’ in those days. Growing up with the Movies
  10. 10. Peter Colaco, author of a book on Bangalore says he has vivid memories of "being lined up and marched off to watch Ten Commandments — with its mix of biblical allusion and little belly-dancing girls — from St. Germain's "; just as some other schools probably made their students do as well.
  11. 11. Loads of school children were brought to the theatre to watch this movie and a special personal screening of the movie was arranged in the year 1959 for the Maharaja of Mysore, Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar and his entourage. In 1959, the Mysore Maharaja, Nalwadi Krishnarajendra Wodeyar, came to Plaza to watch 10 Commandments. The entire balcony was reserved for the royal entourage. “He wanted to buy tickets, but we’d have none of it,’’ recalls theatre owner Niranjan, then a 16-year-old. The Celebrity couple, Dharmendra and Hema Malini, too came here to watch movies when they were in Bangalore shooting for Sholay

Cinema Theatres