On a street essentially retaining its colourful character, the saddest exits have been staged by epic single-screen theatres. Cinemas on and around Lamington Road are left demolished or as purveyors of soft porn flicks behind rusted iron gates. Once 1000-seaters, they flashed House Full boards, red velvet carpets, silver jubilee bashes and industry blue blood like Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor at glittering premieres. In the World War I years rose Imperial, West End, Minerva and Precious. Swastik joined them in the 1930s.
Jawaani ki Hawa released at Imperial in September 1935 to controversy unrelated to the suggestive title. Franz Osten’s romantic thriller had music scored by Saraswati Devi (Khurshid Minocher-Homji from a conservative clan) and her sister Chandraprabha (Manek) as second heroine with Devika Rani. The siblings used to host a popular programme known as The Homji Sisters’ Orchestra.
The outrage was predictable. In keeping with the general perception of the time, many believed that moviedom was no place for young women from respectable families. Demonstrating outside Imperial, the Parsi Federal Council sought a ban.
Dealing with further furore was a fate the film escaped thanks to intervention from predominantly Parsi directors on the board of its producer, Bombay Talkies – the first public limited film company established in 1934. Saraswati Devi had met Himanshu Rai, producer and founder of Bombay Talkies, at a music concert in Lucknow. And the rest became cinema history.