Chennai’s Jaya Prada theater (formerly Midland)

(As the name might lead one to believe the theater is owned by the actress)
click to enlarge

nostalgic piece here..

Sometimes certain things happen without our knowledge – and that’s what happened to me last week. Suddenly my friends and myself decided to go to Parry’s corner to buy some beauty products and it was sheer accident that all of us are a gang who had two decades ago painted the town red. And we crossed all the arterial roads in Chennai and of course with the choking traffic we were inching our way and the person on the wheel was livid with anger. Suddenly when I looked out I saw Melody Theater and immediately so many pleasant thoughts came rushing to my mind. Melody theater near Royapettah’s famous tower clock was my favorite haunt during my school and college days. I still remember the theater so well – and the cinemas I had watched in 1973 “Sollathan Ninaikeren” directed by K Balachander and of course several other movies and the last one I remember was Madhuri Dixit dancing away into my heart with her peppy “ek do theen” number.

As we inched our car stopped near Jayapradha and oh! there are many sweet and mushy memories connected to this theater. Till actress Jayaprada brought it and renamed it the theater was called Midland. And what pleasant memories. In the year 1966 when I was hardly 7 years old our entire family comprising first and second cousins ( from our old dilapidated Triplicane house) in a big gang walked all the way from Nallthambi street to Midland theatre to watch the then biggest grosser “Bhama Vijayam” and it was a night show and after the show at the dead hour of night we chatted and laughed our way back home. I still remember the cut out of Director K Balachander erected in the theater ( that was the first time where the Director’s cut out was kept in cinema halls).

It was in the same Midland theater I saw “Bobby” and that too in the first week of it’s release. The film had a huge draw and the theaters were packed in the first week due to its pre release publicity but our gang of friends wanted to see the film in the first week itself – so we stuffed all kinds of junk foods (that time I was thin) and went and stood in the Two rupees ticket queue (!!!) which was serpentine at 9 O clock in the morning (and I had told my mother I had some important work in British Council Library!) and each one of us took turns to stand and when we got the tickets all of us jumped that all others had to participate in our happiness and we went in it was first row – but for us nothing mattered except the silver screen and my favorite stars who appeared on it. At that time I was good in whistling too!! And my mother called me a “rowdy” and I took that as a compliment! And Midland theatre movie means film- Irani small samosa and lassi and if more hungry then Shyama Prasad Hotel (which is closed now)

As we crossed we saw a huge building and of course there was no sign of once popular Wellington theatre (yes many people might now have forgotten the theater itself but I cannot) Usually Devar – MGR combination films used to be released there and I had seen almost every MGR- Saroja Devi film there and when I looked at that palatial building I felt extremely bad – everything is gone the evergreen MGR and his usual theater and that is life. The transient nature of life sometimes affects us deeply isn’t it?

While returning I the first thing that attracted my attention was Casino where MGR’s “Anbe Vaa” was released and then Paragon which now looks like a boot bungalow which usually screened “family entertainers” ( people used to come out with wiping tears and blowing nose in their kerchiefs) and of course Plaza where I see nobody now.

It is a pity that Anand and Little Anand were closed after its owner Umapathy passed away. Umapathy actually was known for maintaining his theaters and it was from him that Sivaji Ganesan bought his “Shanthi” theater. Little Anand has a special place in my heart because I saw “Aradhana” 10 times just for the sake of Rajesh Khanna who was my first dream boy. And now Rajesh has become a grandpa and the theater has been demolished.

Safire once a haven for English movie lovers ( “Cleopatra” was the first film screened there) Emerald (for hindi film lovers) and Blue Diamond ( with its continuous shows helped the “lovers” a lot and our duty was to tease them) – now it has vanished. Even now after decades if you ask me about the inside topography including the row number and corner seats of Chennai theatres I will reel out. Yes – all these theaters have vanished from the road map of Chennai but they still remain evergreen in my memory.

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