Elgin talkies cinema hall

One of the works shown as part of the World-Information City exhibition is ‘Change of State’ by Ashok Sukumaran. It is a simple but effective installation of power switches, lights garlands, a cassette recorder and a couple of other electric devices on the facade of the Elgin Talkies cinema hall on Shivaji Street. During yesterdays opening a couple of us had the opportunity to get into the projection room in the rear of this oldest cinema hall in town.

If something like the magic of cinema exists then it probably does here. the projectionists is one of the most impressive rooms i have ever seen, two old hot, oil dripping dust and light emitting projectors that are operated by two small men with an careful dedication dominate the barely lit room. The combination of sound, smell, temperature and light creates a very special atmosphere. The place has a truly analogue feel to it something that i have not been able to appreciate for a long time. Further proof that there is a world beyond bit-torrent…

More photos on flickr.com

Here is a bit of historic background information about Elgin Talkies that i dug up from the depths of the internets:

If you ever want to savour the past, the City still has the oldest entertainment house-turned-cinema – Elgin Talkies. Though it didn't start out that way, it came to be called a Talkies.

Elgin Talkies beginning coincided with the birth of cinema in India – in 1896 – when the Lumiere Brothers presented their year-old invention for the first time to an astonished audience in Bombay at the Watson Hotel. Tents followed and after 1907 came the cinema houses. There are many cinema houses of the early 20th century vintage. But I doubt if any of them is exactly as it was originally built.

The Elgin (which takes its name from Lord Elgin who ruled India) was built in 1896 – when India woke up to magical cinema – brick by brick exactly as it was designed. Even today it follows strict segregation of the sexes – booking, entrance and seating! Thus it becomes the oldest building remaining unchanged in every aspect since 1896, now serving as a cinema house.

It started as a variety entertainment hall, but records of the Elgin are available only after its switch to cinema around the end of World War I. The exhibitor those days was a showman. He dressed for the occasion, received higher class audiences, held forth on the merits and demerits of the film and was usually an expert on public taste. This tradition continued till the late '50s.

The Elgin exhibitor’s son, the grandfather of the present owner, was by the celluloid bug, ran away from home and came back with a projector to convert the Elgin into a cinema hall.

The Elgin has now completed 109 years of uninterrupted "entertainment", which richly qualifies it to be declared a heritage building and preserved by the State in tribute to the grand cinemas of the last century.

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