Tuesday, February 23, 2010

City’s cinemas have many firsts

City’s cinemas have many firsts

K.N. Venkatasubba Rao


BANGALORE: The history of cinema hall culture in the city dates back to 1905 with the conversion of the Doddanna Hall in the Kalasiplayam area into Paramount Talkies under the inescapable influence of the British.

Three persons, Srinivasulu Naidu, Rangaswamy Naidu and Sahukar Mallappa Rudrappa, who were close to the authorities, can claim credit for the city’s first cinema.

First Kannada talkie
Although Paramount paved the way for Pradeep and Parimala cinemas in the passage of time, it has the distinction of screening the first-ever Kannada talkie, Sati Sulochana, in the State, on March 3, 1934.

Encouraged by public response, many entrepreneurs, including the doyen of Kannada professional theatre Gubbi Veeranna, ventured to try their hands in the creation of “bioscope” halls in the city. This resulted in a boom with cinemas such as Select (later rechristened as Gita and demolished in the early 1990s), Shivananda Theatre (later Movieland) and Super Talkies in the Majestic area.

In 1941, two Irani brothers belonging to a reputed Parsi family constructed the then famous Prabhat cinema, which was inaugurated by no less a personage than the then Diwan Mirza Ismail. The first film screened here was, appropriately enough, the celebrated Prabhat Talkies’ Aadmi. Watching a film at Prabhat was said to be a prestigious event in those days.

War history
The very construction method of the States cinema hall on Kempegowda Road, opposite Prabhat (now demolished) in 1944 drew public attention as its balcony was constructed without supporting pillars. From 1944 to 1946 this cinema was used by the military authorities as their godown for obvious reasons.

However, the States soon returned to screening films, particularly Kannada. It has now been renovated and renamed Bhumika.

The city’s extensions saw the first cinema hall in 1944-45 with the construction of the famous Sharada talkies in the old Vokkaligara Sangha premises in Chickpet. This cinema hall is said to be the first in south India to try out morning shows.

With the increase in the number of film buffs, the Movieland cinema introduced the queue system for the first time in the city.

Majestic cinemas
From the early 1960s to 1990s, the busy Majestic area saw the flowering of cinemas such as Himalaya, Kempegowda, Kapali, Menaka, Kalpana, Alankar, Majestic, Sangam, Sagar, Nartaki and Santosh.

Sadly, all the three famous cinemas on J.C. Road — Bharat, Shivaji and Minerva — made way for commercial establishments in the early 1980s.

While Malleswaram, Seshadripuram and Rajajinagar saw the advent of Sampige, Savitha (mini theatre) and Gitanjali, Central and Nataraj and Navarang cinemas, Basvanagudi and Jayangar accommodated Shanti and Nanda and Puttanna Kanagal theatres.

The Bannerghatta area had the distinction of having the first drive-in theatre in the city, which made way for an IT park. There were about 120 cinemas in the city, over 20 in Majestic area alone. A changing city and its demographic as well as economic viability saw may cinemas demolished to accommodate shopping complexes.

The Cantonment
In the other parts of the city, the famous Lakshmi cinema in the Cantonment area was known for screening Telugu and Tamil films while Opera and Plaza catered to English film buffs.

The Bangalore Reserve Volunteers (BRV), then popularly known as Defence Cinema, also came into existence in the early 1940s. BRV screened films only when there were no military-related activities on its premises, which is the case today.

Of the many cinemas, including Lido, Galaxy and Imperial in the Cantonment area, Elgin in Shivajinagar area is still going strong.

This venerable institution has the distinction of being one among the oldest in the city, and having associated with the industry ever since the first talkie, Alam Ara, was screened in July 1931.

The Government has classified cinemas such as permanent, semi permanent, makeshift, touring and drive-in for tariff purposes. According to sources in the Government and the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, only 80 cinemas in the category of permanent and semi-permanent — including the multiplexes — are active.

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