Talkies - Balaji Maheshwar
32 images Created 11 Sep 2013
We used to love going to Minerva in Broadway — a small, beautiful theatre that screened some of the best films. We always walked back home after the late night show because there was no transport and by the end of the month, we didn’t have the money”-Singeetham srinivasa rao(Indian Film Director) “We never went to restaurants or cafes because it was a question of money. Minerva was the only small AC theatre around showing English films. “-K.Balachander(Indian Film Director) Minerva Theater, established by W.H. Murch in 1916 during the British rule of India is the oldest and the first A/C theater of madras (Chennai,India). The cinema hall has 294 seats. Minerva had an exclusive contract with Paramount Pictures for several years running, making it the number one destination in the city for those who wanted to watch English feature films. It was the only theater in madras which screened world class movies. Also it was the first to run ‘Adults Only’ features, strictly enforcing the age code. Minerva had strict rules that people with dresses other than trousers were not allowed inside. The theater, operational right from the British rule was once dubbed as the "Coolest and Most Comfortable theater in the Presidency". But its glorious reign came to an end in the mid-1970s. I entered the cinema hall bearing in my mind, the rich history that the theater has to offer. But all semblances of a past glory vaporize when one steps inside. Like so many other theaters in Chennai, Minerva too has fallen in to times of despair. The seats are infested with algae, torn and broken. The ambiance inside is putrefying. Dust laden aisles, rusted buckets and sleepy looking people welcome me as I enter the hall. It becomes evident at the very moment that the theater is a picture of decay and disintegration. The people who come there to watch the movies are unlike any other. Daily laborers, drunkards, dope addicts unable to bear the scorching heat take refugee in the comparatively cooler interiors of the theater. My intentions through these photographs have been entirely to document the present, transient state of the once glorious cinema hall. Maybe within the coming months, Minerva may have to be entirely destroyed to facilitate a high rise building or a mall but the fact is, it still stands and shares with it a momentous piece of history. I would like to humbly celebrate and reflect the same through this medium.