Rhythm House was a significant address for Mumbai theatre

Although known as a music repository, the store was a significant address for Mumbai theatre

Theatre veteran Alyque Padamsee can comfortably take credit for making Rhythm House synonymous with Mumbai stage. It’s in the 1940s, when the store opened, that his brother, Sultan Bobby Padamsee ran the Theatre Group of Bombay.

There were a few music lovers buying CDs when we visted yesterday. Pic/Shadab Khan
There were a few music lovers buying CDs when we visted yesterday. Pic/Shadab Khan

A friend of owner, Mehmood Curmally, he asked if the music store would sell tickets to his play, after Rose & Co, a shop down the road, decided to fold up. “It was a good idea. Those who love music also tend to be theatre lovers.

Over 75 years, despite the arrival of competition like bookmyshow, Rhythm House continued to sell tickets to the biggest shows in town,” says Padamsee. From the late Pt Ravi Shankar to Zubin Mehta, shows featuring stalwarts would find their audience here.

The business would unfold quietly at a desk in a corner manned by Nita Daru. She is also the go-to person for theatrewallas when they need to bag a licence, police permissions and a censor certificate. Most, including Padamsee, cannot imagine Rhythm House without Daru.

Or any of its staffers. The director-producer remembers the time he went in looking for St Louis Blues by Louis Armstrong. “The boy at the store hadn’t heard of it, neither could he find it. He called me a year later to say he had found the CD. It’s their warmth that made the place special.”

His daughter Raell Padamsee is wondering what announcement they will make at the end of their performances. “After every play, we’d announce, “buy our tickets at Rhythm House; call Nita Daru,” she says. Raell remembers visiting the store as a child since Alyque and her mother Pearl were both active on stage.

For Dolly Thakore, the news feels like “an arm has been cut off”. The store and Café Samovar across from it, are part of her earliest memories of Mumbai when she arrived in 1969. “I’d always visit one after the other.
We’d run to Nita to see how sales were going. Mehmood (Curmally) is a lovely singer, by the way. I visited the store last on October 21, and Nita greeted me warmly like always. I didn’t know then that they were shutting.”

Shernaz Patel, co-founder of Rage Theatre with Rahul da Cunha and Rajit Kapur, wonders, “What’s closing next?” “Bookshops all over the world are folding up. The online world is so impersonal.”

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