Woodlands reverberated with Yahoo...

Woodlands reverberated with Yahoo...

Walk the talkies

When Shammi Kapoor tasted a huge success with ‘Junglee’ in 1961, a theatre in the city also had the share in cementing his position in bollywood, writes Sreekantswamy B

long history: Woodlands Picture House on Bangalore- Nilgiri road in Mysore. dh photos by prashant h gYahoo... chaaye koi mujhe junglee kahe... ya hoo... the very song reminds of Shammi Kapoor one of the popular actors from Kapoor clan, who passed away recently. For Mysoreans, especially for yesteryear’s die-hard fans of the actor, it would definitely remind of Woodlands Picture House on Bangalore- Nilgiri road here.

The movie titled ‘Junglee’ was successfully screened for 25 weeks. Not only that the leading lady of the flick Saira Banu for whom it was also her debut, visited the theatre for silver jubilee celebration.

Mother India starring Nargis, bollywood showman Rajkapoor’s Anari, Rajesh Khanna’s- Haati Mera Saati, Dr Rajkumar’s- Babruvahana, Gemini Ganeshan’s- Devatha are a few among the hits screened here.

B R Venkatachala one of the partners (he is running the theatre along with his brother B R Vasudevmurthy) told City Herald, the picture house has a history of nine decades. It was in the year 1922 the huge building which houses theatre now was constructed by Rao Saheb B Munivenkatappa, grandfather of Venkatachala.

Munivenkatappa was a known name as an engineer and contractor. He was also the classmate of then dewan Sir Mirza Ismail. When he aspired to build a dedicated hall to stage dramas, as a patron of art, the dewan was benevolent in granting the land.

Interestingly, when the building was completed, the dewan asked the same Munivenkatappa to facilitate the functioning of post office for sometime, till it was shifted to Nehru Circle, where the head post office still remains.

Many do not know, when the post office was shifted to another place, the hall was handed over to Ram Bai Patel, another prominent exhibitor. It was here where Ranjit talkies saw its birth and remained for sometime in the early 30’s. However, it was later shifted to another building on the same stretch, when Munivenkatappa decided to start a theatre on his own on May 4, 1947. It was how  Woodlands Picture House came into existence. The first film screened was- We Two, a Telugu with English name which ran for 100 days. Khalnayak, Rangeela, Dil Se, Indian and currently shown Vishnuvardhana have been a success here.

Favourite of the royals

The picture house was also favourite among erstwhile rulers, Wadiyar’s. The royals were watching the cinema from the dedicated boxes constructed next to the operator’s room.

Showing a door which remains closed now, Venkatachala said- Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar and his family was entering the theatre through this door. A curtain had been drawn to prevent others from getting the sight of royal family even while climbing the staircase. The royal boxes having the capacity to accommodate eight at a time were furnished to the status of royals. The attendants at the theatre were uniformly dressed.

No sooner the film began the curtains at the box was also pulled off to facilitate the view. Similarly at the time of interval the curtains were drawn for the comfort of royals.

Says Venkatachala: Our’s is the first theatre to have a generator facility way back in 1947 itself, besides four track sound system in the later year’s.

Woodlands twin theatres in Chennai also belong to the same family, who are a known name in the field of granite exports too in Bangalore.