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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 7, july 16-31, 2009
Our Readers Write

Going back to the movies

After reading the letter of I. Joga Rao (MM, June 16th) on Star and other theatres, I too went down memory lane.

During college days, my friends and I never missed the first day, first show at Star, as in those days only Star used to screen new Hindi movies. I knew a Rama­krishna at the ticket booking counter and, due to my repeated visits, we became friends. He would take my bulk bookings over the phone till the end. Star also had a Pathan watchman who was very jovial and dedicated; he worked for years for Star. Star offered free viewing of films to its patrons’ drivers. Many used to just drive to Star not only for films but also for the spicy, aromatic and tasty chilli bhajji (mirchi ka pakodi) which was prepared by a Rajasthani just opposite the theatre.

In Sowcarpet, there was Select where only second-run Hindi movies were screened. I used to travel all the way from Alwarpet by bus with my friends, one of them being Sashi Ruia of Essar Group, to watch hit movies of the period.

As far as I remember, Minerva, which screened only English films, was the first theatre to start noon shows and many office-goers took advantage of its timing (12.30 pm to 2.00 pm) to watch the film before reporting back to work. The bosses would presume that the staff were coming back after lunch a bit late.

New Elphinstone was famous for its soda fountain corner. I visited the theatre only to enjoy its unique tangy ginger ale, ice cream soda, lemonade and other drinks. The place was spick and span and the fountains, which were of stainless steel, were always shining. Shanti screened the Hindi blockbuster movie, Raj Kapoor’s Sangam. Sangam was the first Hindi movie with two intermissions. The show started at 12.30 pm. Raj Kapoor was a family friend and we were specially invited for the movie.

Safire was owned by the Shahs of Veecum­sees who had a jewellery shop in Sowcarpet. Shahs had a small private ‘preview theatre’ in their shop and this might have been one of the reasons which inspired them to open Safire. ­Inside the foyer of Safire there were long wooden boards which had details written of the shows, such as name of the movie, date of ­release, number of weeks the movie had run, total collection and total amount of entertainment tax paid.

R.K. Bhuwalka
‘Yadugiri’  K-10, 30A, C.P. Ramaswamy Road
Chennai 600 018

George Town nostalgia

Recent mention in your columns about the cinema halls of Madras took me down nostalgia lane!

The George Town of those days, some 75 years ago, was peaceful, not too crowded and the people were easy-going. I was born at 10 Vaniar Street; my father’s Belgian electrical firm had its office downstairs and our flat was located upstairs. Later, we moved into a lovely, long and airy flat in Davidson Street, bang opposite Minerva theatre with its delightful English musical comedies! When we heard the last strains of Deanna Durbin’s melodious voice coming into our flat, it meant the end of the matinee show and we three, my parents and I, would walk across to Minerva for the evening show! It was aircondi­tioned too, I think.

My school, St. Columbas near Sloane Square, was within walking distance when I joined it as a five-year-old. My father’s office had shifted to Broadway.

Moore Market on weekends was the most enjoyable outing after a short tram ride and a long walk, with storybooks and games to pick up from the shops uppermost in mind.

My daughter and I recently went on a George Town jaunt one Sunday evening to look at Vaniar Street and Davidson Street and Sloane Square! Though I have seen Sloane Square and several Broadways during our London trips, these remain special!

Parvati V. Menon
IA, ‘Doshi Deepanjali’, 1, East Mada Street
Srinagar Colony, Saidapet, Chennai 600 015

Thirsty dugongs

A recent Animal Channel docu­­mentary on the ma­na­tee had me looking through the Brittannica. It describes three species: the Caribbean manatee, living along the coasts of the southern US and northern South America; and the Amazon manatee and the West African manatee which inhabit rivers and estuaries. The dugong, its relative, is found in the Palk Bay, Gulf of Mannar, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Ocean, Australia, etc. in the shallow areas of the tropical oceans as well as in the Red Sea. Though the location of their presence is shown as coastal shallows, bays and estuaries as well as freshwater rivers, the fact that they can become thirsty due to lack of freshwater and not sea water is now indicated. Even though they may forage on sea grass, they need to come to the source of freshwater – river mouth – as otherwise, like other land mammals, they may die of thirst.

K.V.S. Krishna
2A, Parkland Apartments,
Kamalabhai Street
T’Nagar, Chennai 600 017

The Indian Skimmer

Yellow-tipped orange bills of varying lengths, vermilion legs, black caps, wings and back, all help to identify the Skimmer (MM, June 1st).

Baker and Inglis describe the bird in their book, Birds of Southern India (Madras-Trivandrum-Cochin-Mysore), published by the Government Press, Madras, in 1930. The Forest Museum, Forest College, Coimbatore, has a skin, ­probably collected near Coimbatore 3.

I have seen them between 1991 and 1997 near K. Sathanur, Tiruchi. When the Kaveri irrigation canals were opened, the River Terns in fifties would fly over the water, their wings filling the sky. With them, invariably, would be a pair of Indian Skimmer, flying inches above the water, their lower bills ploughing the water.

The skimmer has a bill that is unlike any other in the bird world – vertically compressed to blade-like thinness – lower mandible 3.5” longer than the upper mandible 2.6” – placed on edge. An unlikely bill for picking up food! So it feeds in an unlikely way. The bird skims the water with opened bills, the lower mandible ploughing the water. When it contacts a fish, the head snaps down and back. The bird never sees the fish before it is caught.

Terns and Skimmers share the same habitat. While Terns are diurnal feeders, the Skimmers are crepuscular and nocturnal.

It is gratifying to learn that Indian Skimmers are now to be seen around Madras.

J. Mangalaraj Johnson, ifs (rtd)
Chairman, WWF India, TNSO
123/5 (New No. 297), TTK Road
Alwarpet, Chennai 600 018

Sir Kurma’s family

My father used to tell me that, during his student days in Madras, all newspapers carried a news item about Sir Kurma’s (MM, July 1st) “miserable defeat”!

His son, K.V. Gopalaswamy, Bar-at-law, was the Registrar of the Andhra University for many years. Every year he used to sign thousands of degree certificates. He signed three of my degree certificates!

The students of Andhra University used to adore Gopala­swamy. He used to come in a dark coat and light-coloured trousers with the Vice Chancellors and the Chief Guests for all the functions in the outdoor auditorium. When they caught sight of him, the students used to lustily cheer him. He used to acknowledge the cheers waving till he reached the dais. He was a witty speaker and a patron of the arts and drama. Every year he used to conduct drama competitions.

Sir Kurma’s daughter was the wife of a District Judge in Machilipatnam. We boys used to go to the Judge’s bungalow and play football in its spacious grounds. His two grandsons used to provide everything for our play.

D.B. James
37, Sadasiva Metha Street
Metha Nagar, Chennai 600 023

A Durgabhai first

Durgabhai (MM, July 1st) was the first woman to be admitted by the Andhra University, Waltair. This was in the 1930s. Andhra University and Travancore University used to admit underage students, who had passed the SSLC/Matriculation examinations.

Reddy Saranya
74/67, Rundalls Road
Vepery, Chennai - 600 007

Permanent exhibition?

Chennai has many vintage car enthusiasts. I suggest that a permanent vintage car exhibition be planned and maintained so that tourists and visitors can go around and see the ‘automobile history’ on any day of the year.

 If a group of like-minded people comes together for this purpose, I am willing to donate my 1958 Baby Hindustan which has been done up and remains beautiful.

Dr. Susikaran Thangasami
14, Balfour Road, Kilpauk
Chennai - 600 010

The correct name

Re. Historic Residences of Chennai – 20 (MM, June 16th), I would like to point out that the name of my great-grandfather, the Rajah of Paanagal, was Rajah Paana­ganti Rama Rayaningar and not Parthasarathy Ramarayaningar, as mentioned in the article.

M.V.S. Appa Rao

Editor’s Note: We regret the error.


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Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


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