Cinema Nostalgia – A Sequel
Reading the varied and fascinating contributions on the Indian Cinema theme brought back some further memories. Ameer Janmohamed, in his ‘Romance of the Regal’ (extracted from his book) writes that the Regal Cinema had a stage behind the screen that was often used for live shows. I remember going to a musical concert by Mohamed Rafi and his ensemble visiting from India, in around 1956/57. This was the first time I had been to anything like that. Seeing them sing and play the various instruments, especially the electric guitar, made a huge impression. It was an exciting performance to a cheering full house.
As he says, the Regal auditorium was also used to hold political meetings, with veterans like A B Patel and Dr Rana. I remember going to one, in 1956, where Anant Pandya, introduced by A B Patel who was retiring, and his opponent D P Chandaria, addressed the meeting in both Gujarati and English, and even as a schoolboy I could sense that Chandaria had a poor command of English and was no match for Pandya. Needless to say Pandya – an urbane, LSE alumnus and Barrister, easily got elected and served as an MLC and MP right until 1969.
But in discussing the playing of the British national anthem, Janmohamed states, ‘persons born in the United Kingdom were “Citizens of United Kingdom” whereas persons born in British Colonies were designated as “British Protected Persons”’. Writing from a Mombasa perspective, he has got that wrong. The real distinction was between those born in the ‘Colony` part of Kenya, who were Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies irrespective of race, and those born in the ‘Protectorate’ part.
The national anthem ritual in the cinemas however continued well past independence and indeed was rigorously enforced. Anyone caught not standing up for it was liable to find themselves in trouble. This happened to an unlucky British expat actor, who was part of the Donovan Maule Theatre company. He had brazenly remained sitting while the Kenyan national anthem was played at the beginning of the film show. He was arrested, charged with a public order offence and appeared before the Magistrates Court in Nairobi. He was fined and ordered to be deported, a harsh punishment really. By a coincidence, he happened to be sitting next to me on a flight to London on his way out, and we fell into a conversation about his plight. He confessed he had been drunk and had not taken the playing of the anthem seriously enough. This must have been in early 1974.
In his piece, Kul Bhushan mentions the Globe Cinema, which also had a stage setting, hosting Bollywood playback singers such as Kishore Kumar. I remember going to one such show which had been organised by a client of mine who was happy to dispense complimentary tickets.
Dear Zarina and Zahid
You two and your team made a fantastic job of Indian Cinema in East Africa—1900s—1980s. There are fantastic contributions from knowledgeable contributors. The pictures and posters work very well to give the story right flavor. Please keep up the good work.
With your permission I like to send The Awaaz cover to more than 500 contacts I have world over drawing their attention to the story. Do you think it is good idea? I would certain need Link for Awaaz Magazine.
Ramzan’s article brought pleasant childhood memories to the fore. I do remember seeing the ushers, Mr. Shah at his post by the entrance always with a lighted cigarette in his hand, the ticket touts, etc.
The person who sold chana-batets, kachri, etc. was a permanent feature by the fence of the police station. His name was Husein, an Ithnasheri man, was very active in his sect’s activities. His relief was his younger brother.
Across from the cinema was a cafe cold ’Central Cold Drink House’; run by two brothers namely Ismail and Munnaver. For obvious reasons they had a large sign over the counter saying: ‘DURING INTERVAL PAY WHEN SERVED’; for obvious reasons!