Monday, September 04, 2006
there was lot of suspense and excitement in the air.metro cinema in its new multiplex avatar was ready.the newspaper announced bookings for kank.we wanted to see the movie,first day first show in the new metro christened metro adlabs.i wanted to kill two birds with one stone. but alas it was not to be. my driver returned emptyhanded. the much anticipated reopening of metro cinema did not materialise on the given day and the public which had gathered went back very very disappointed.there was some hitch. all the mandatory permissions had not been got. finally amidst lot of drama the last permission arrived at 7.30 pm in true filmy style and the veil was lifted.
the original cinema house was designed and built in true mgm style in 1938.actually the work started in 1930 and it took eight years to complete.even then there was lot of opposition for such a huge cinema-theatre coming up.surprisingly the parsis were most vocal and opposed the construction.mgm weathered the storm and finally the art deco theatre was ready.the media and the public went gaga over it.large foyer,grand mirrored staircase,teakwood columns supporting the ceiling and huge belgian chandeliers.a herringbone patterned glass mirror at the midlanding.about 1500 seating capcity.metro truly and justly became an outstanding landmark of bombay. it was sheer grandeur.the first film to be screened was 'broadway melody'.
when i first came to the then bombay in 1959 the first movie that i saw was in metro.i was struck with the sheer space around,the comfortable seating.the airconditioning and the ease with which one could exit the cinemahouse. when i learnt that metro was to be developed into a multiplex, i had my own serious misgivings. a landmark cinemahouse was gettting transformed. old memories came rushing back. how we would make a beeline from st xavier's college to the metro cinema which was a 5 minutes' walk.the then table-tennis wonder and sensation indira iyengar accompanying us.we would have popcorns in the stalls and head for the movie.special lounges,artistic murals,italian marble flooring.ushers wore suits and a soda fountain made good ice cream.
but then things changed.with the arrival of tv people's movie viewing habits got transformed. and then came along the vcd.and the dvd. more and more people preferred to watch movies from the comforts of their homes. single screen establishments became unviable.in 1970 mgm sold metro to the gupta family.and a few years ago majority ownership again changed hands.bsma ltd.an investment placement firm invested 6 million us dollars in the multiplex business of adlab films ltd.they have plans to build 30 multiplexex totalling 150 screens in the country in the next five years.promoter manmohan shetty has made an investment of about rs 20 crores in the dhobitalo metro.and it has been renamed metro adlabs.
there are two more art deco cinema halls in mumbai. eros and regal.pranav desai the architest of metro adlabs and pooja shetty manmohan shetty's daughter had a major problem on hand.the multiplex had to be modern.and they did not want to throw away the rich heritage that they had bought.a fine balancing had to be done.intermingling the new with the old.to look very modern yet retain its old glamour.after two years of hard work the renovation was completed.chandeliers still hanging. six screens, specially designed seats,ebony lounge with 30 reclining seats.1491 seats in all the screens put together.plasma displays and digital bells and whistles.wood interiors matching beautifully with stainless steeel and veneer fittings.a lot of vibrant red,a key art deco colour. the first function was the release of 'lights,camera,masala' by sheena sippy. a book about movie production in bollywood.it was a star-studded function.and then the much awaited 'kabhi alvida na kehana'.
yesterday afternoon i watched 'the break-up' starring vince vaughn and jennifer aniston.i had read the reviews.they were both good and bad. i wanted to see the new metro and i was keen to see jennifer aniston and the time of one pm suited me admirably. it was a great experience. i was warned that there would be a parking problem.i decided to park my car at the bombay gymkhana and walk all the way down. it was a 7 minutes walk. and it was enjoyable. walking along the colourful 'fashion street'. i then decided to blog on this subject soon. and when i reached metro adlabs, i found the transformation very pleasing. for once "a sequel that is as good as the original". very comfortable seating with ample legroom.sound system modulated and not as high pitched as at inox.i tested the loo out.world class.i was pleasantly surprised to see the screen above where i stood.how in 1947 or thereabouts morarji desai banned a film because actress sulochana was shown making love.it was released after that portion was cut.and how raveena tandon is a model turned actress.it is a live screen.continuously screening cinema titbits. and i tried peeping into the ebony lounge.the girl out there discreetly held me away. after all, the folks in there were stretched on their sofas and enjoying their drinks while watching 'lage raho munnabhai'. for rs 500 per seat and gourmet food and drinks served by wellmannered hostesses serving in silver.the old cigarbar after its makeover is something i don't want to miss.
how near mumbaikars were to saying 'alvida' to metro! for once a developer has shown what good sense and imagination can do.
lage raho manmohanbhai!