Friday, November 30, 2012

Opera House revamp hits another roadblock Heritage committee wants 20-year-old restaurant in the building to go before it clears proposal

Opera House revamp hits another roadblock

Heritage committee wants 20-year-old restaurant in the building to go before it clears proposal
Posted On Friday, November 30, 2012 at 10:28:21 AM
Royal Opera House (Mumbai) is located in Mumbai
Location within Mumbai

There’s been yet another delay in the revamp of Opera House - once an epicenter of Indian films and theatre. This time, it’s due to concerns raised over arestaurant and a proposed art gallery inside the landmark structure.

While considering its restoration proposal, the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) has proposed that a 20-year-old restaurant inside the Opera House be removed as it is blocking the view of the iconic theatre.

Built over a century ago, the Opera House stopped screening films and was shut down in the late 1980s. The brilliant colonial era building has not only witnessed the premier of some of the Bollywood classics, but also hosted live theatres by Prithviraj Kapoor, Dinanath Mageshkar and famous French production Pathé.

The restoration work at the building was set to begin in 2008 when MHCC had allowed conservation architect Abha Lambah to carry out some structural repair work at the building, which is a grade II heritage structure.

A proposal for full restoration of Opera House was submitted in 2011 but it ended up gathering dust at the BMC Headquarters for a year because MHCC was defunct between July 2011 and July 2012.

The newly formed MHCC examined the proposal and has suggested changes to the plan. The revamp proposal includes restoring the main live theater area and turning it into a movie theatre, revamping the restaurant and landscaping the open space to use it as the parking space. The committee has expressed objections to these.

“The committee observed that the restaurant shed is not part of the original theater complex. Also the restaurant is blocking the view of the main theatre structure from certain angles,” said a member of the MHCC.

“Even if the authenticity of the restaurant was established, it would be more appropriate to relocate the same farther away from the main entrance, thereby creating a more open area near the entrance of this public building,” the member added.

MHCC Chairman V Ranganathan said that the commitee had called for more details about the proposal for the restaurant and the landscaping. “We have asked for more details since exact details about entire revamp were not submitted to the committee. Once the details are provided, the commitee will go through them again and then take a final call,” Ranganathan told Mumbai Mirror.

Lambah said that once a go-ahead from the MHCC comes through, the renovation would take around a year. “The restaurant is there for the past 15-20 years. There is no plan to build any new restaurant but the old restaurant will be renovated. We will give all details to the MHCC and wait till we get their nod,” Lambah said.

The MHCC is likely to visit the theatre soon, before giving a final approval to the renovation proposal. “From a grade IIA structure it has been proposed to be upgraded to Grade I. We will have to keep that in mind too,” Ranganathan added.

General information
Architectural style Baroque design - a blend of European and Indian Architectural style
Town or city Mumbai
Country India
Coordinates 18.956111°N 72.815556°E
Construction started 1909
Completed 1912
Design and construction
Client Bombay Presidency

Maurice Bandmann & Jehangir Framji Karaka


Opera House
Forget travelling to London, Chicago or even Sydney for your operatic pleasures. Now, you can get your fill of oratorio, theatre and dance in Mumbai itself, with the city’s one-time favourite Opera House, set to get renovated after months of waiting.
Architect Abha Narain Lambah, who is in charge of the project, says the journey was ‘magical’. She says, “To see the lovely opera interiors - the stage with all functioning equipment, galleries and chandeliers - was like walking back in time.” It was also a journey of learning for her. “You have to understand the language of the opera, the backstage etc. It meant so much, for instance, Prithviraj Kapoor literally lived upstairs in the green room,” she says, adding, “there are paintings of playwrights on the wall and the chairs, curtains and stage are still there. When you walk in, it’s as though any time someone will just throw on the lights - surreal,” she says.
There are definite conservation measures undertaken to restore the structure to its original grandeur. “Our first aim is to structurally stabilise and strengthen it,” reveals Abha. Thus, the Baroque-style building will see structural repairs in phase one, while phase two will comprise doing the interiors. It is expected to see completion within a year.
In May 2001, the planning dictum was that: The historicity of the building and its architecture will be lost if it is not used as a theatre and there should not be a change of user. “That is the land use and what the owner of the building - the Maharaja of Gondal intends,” she says.