A gem of a cinema

May 21, 2012, 07:14 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

As diehard lovers of Mumbai, we are particularly fond of the 63-year-old Liberty Cinema, the iconic art-deco cinema built by Hahib Hoosein as a tribute to Hindi cinema in its heyday

>> As diehard lovers of Mumbai, we are particularly fond of the 63-year-old Liberty Cinema, the iconic art-deco cinema built by Hahib Hoosein as a tribute to Hindi cinema in its heyday.

The 1,196-seater that opened with a screening of the Raj Kapoor starrer Andaz, in 1947 was the haunt of the best and brightest of the film world. Visiting the Liberty with its deep pile carpets and its shining interiors was an exercise in glamour for a whole section of Mumbaikars. 

And, of course, the Liberty’s jewel — like preview theatre was the venue of many a special evening where in the days before DVDs and TV, the best and brightest of SoBo residents, got to watch adult slightly risqué fare in private.

So, it is with particular delight that we read about the attempts of Liberty’s present owner Nazir Hossein to keep his cinema going against all odds, with music performances, art shows and music concerts to bring the crowds in once more. In an age of multiplexes and popcorn, the Liberty is the jewel in Mumbai’s crown.

Birth of a new industry
>> Having been at the centre of the media game for over three decades there is little that surprises us any more, but even we were a tad taken aback when no sooner had the ever smiling Shilpa Shetty-Kundra checked in to a hospital to deliver her first baby, when spin doctors of various hue had already contacted members of the press to garner maximum publicity from the event. ‘Shilpa Shetty Kundra and Raj Kundra choose the newly-opened Hinduja Healthcare boutique hospital for the birth of their baby,’ the efficient PR machinery informed us. “The hospital located in the charming Khar (W) suburb of Mumbai, is a personalised quality healthcare hospital, with world-class technology.”

In an age of hyper-media awareness and the million dollar exclusive photo spread deals that celebrities strike, it should come as no surprise that even as private and personal a matter as the birth of a child can be exploited for publicity. “Bringing a life into this world is the most profound initiation to spirituality and hence, the hospital has dedicated an entire floor to the sanctity of mother and child care. Technologically advanced birthing suites consisting of labour beds, a separate neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) as well as an independent labour room help ensure the health, vitality and well being of both mother and child,” the press release stated. And, of course, Shilpa, (we assume between her labour pangs) had time to gasp: “The Hindujas are close family friends and when I was told they just opened this hospital in Khar I went and checked it out. Without any bias, I loved it as it has the latest birthing equipment, clean, great kitchen, hospital staff and most importantly my doctor affiliated to it.” We see a whole cottage industry being born here: baby’s first feed, first teething gel, first nappy cream etc.

Social Mountaineering
>> Who is the daughter in-law of a billionaire tycoon who is reportedly embarrassing her in-laws with her uncontrollable social mountaineering? According to those in the know, the out-of-towner tycoon has been overheard complaining to his close aides that not only does the young lady hardly spend any time at home with her family, but that her attempts to ingratiate herself and win friends and influence people in Bollywood is discomfiting, to say the least. “We have always been a family that’s kept our distance,” he is reported to have grumbled. “What is the point of comprising the family name now?”

An editor’s mission
>> Not only is he one of India’s most talented editors but also it’s most honest. This diarist is particularly impressed that Vinod Mehta, editor in-chief of the Outlook group, has embarked on his most challenging mission yet. To locate his daughter, a girl born out wedlock when the editor was with a Swiss lady in his youth.

In his book Lucknow Boy, released to great acclaim, Vinod touched upon the incident with admirable candour. “My daughter must be in her mid-40s now, probably a mother, which makes me a grandfather. I have no idea where she lives, what she does, what she thinks of me. I have often tried to imagine her and in this reverie I have prayed that perhaps through some happy accident our paths might cross.” Vinod, we are told, is sparing no effort to find his progeny, planning to appeal on radio and TV, hire the service of agencies and reach out to friends. Towards this end, we hear friends like practicing pyschologist Dr Rashna Imhasly Gandhy (Kekoo Gandhy’s daughter) who is married to a Swiss diplomat are providing much needed assistance.

Their name is Khan
>> So much has been said about Shah Rukh Khan’s moment of rage at the Wankhede Stadium. Motives, provocations incitements have been discussed threadbare, and every one for a brief spell has turned in to a pocket Freud. So for whatever it’s worth, here’s this diarist’s two bits: we grew up in Juhu, the great cradle of the fillum industry in the ’60s.

And next door to us, lived an exceptionally good looking and charming family of swashbuckling brothers and a sister. The family was a delight to be with. Articulate, charming, witty, warm, generous and very very good-looking, they were the first household to which the colony turned for help and support. They would babysit your kids, help out with homework, share their dinner and give you the last shirt on their back in neighbourly love.

But God help you, if you so much as looked at their sister. These very same brothers would transform in to raging beasts if they thought their women folk had been disrespected and it was not uncommon to have ear-shattering brawls break out and fists flying due to an inadvertent remark by a passing stranger unfamiliar with this code of honour. It was something like a Samurai code of protecting the vulnerable: A non-negotiable.

You messa’ with our women — we breaka’ your face. And yes, the brothers were Khans: Feroz, Sanjay, Sameer and Akbar Khan were their names and they were also in films. So when we see pictures of SRK with the veins of his neck bulging and his eyebrows locked in rage, we kind of understand where he’s coming from. 

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