Parsi panic in tinsel town

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.

Picture courtesy : Cinemaazi Archive

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.  


This article has 4 comments

  1. Kashmira Sarkari Reply

    Loved it. Your research techniques are so thorough which leads to making it an interesting read.

    • Jangoo Mistry Reply

      Everything changes, memories remain. Images and experiences of the old Edward Theatre, Liberty, Metro, Excelsior,Minerva….. the posters and Premiers with Stars! Now changed completely or just a shell.

  2. Jacqueline Lobo Reply

    Even the 1930’s had demo’s outside theatres , not much has changed in today’s times , maybe the ‘Cause’ is different.
    Can only imagine the glamour and glitter of cinema then. Sad these single theatres are history now.
    Thanks Ms. Marfatia for an enlightening article as always.

  3. Daraius Dadachanji Reply

    Lovely article, well researched.
    Never heard of the ‘Parsi Federal Council’

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *