It’s apt that Eros, the movie hall named for the Greek god of love, has opened just before Mumbai goes into its annual dance of red hearts and roses. Opened 86 years ago, the cinema opposite Churchgate station is a quintessential Mumbai icon and one that has been a beloved favourite of people living nearby as well as those who squeezed in a show before taking a local train home. The faithful still extol the virtues of its once-plush seats and plump samosas… important ingredients for Bombay romances back in the day. And the grand old cinema hall has just reopened in a new and perhaps even grander avatar!
“Eros is an emotion, a landmark, part of the city’s identity, and it’s back. We celebrate that!” exults Atul Kumar, founder trustee of Art Deco Mumbai, and a very vocal advocate for heritage conservation. The cinema hall that was designed by Architect Sohrabji Bhedwar and opened by the Cambata family on February 10, 1938 at about the same time as the first Art Deco buildings were being completed on the newly constructed Marine Drive, has been lovingly restored and revived by Conservation Architect Kirtida Unwalla and Architect Hafeez Contractor and their respective teams. The Eros redevelopment plan comprised of restoration of the Art Deco structure to bring back its old opulence and a revamp of the internal spaces to suit the needs of modern retail. “The façade has been restored to its magnificent self, maintaining its authenticity, and that too in the original colours. The interiors have been worked on to maintain the original style but with a modern contemporary upgrade that brings the cinema back as version 2.0.” Kumar adds.
Vinay Khandelwal of the Metro Realty Group, which is behind the redevelopment, says, “Eros holds a place in the hearts and minds of millions of Mumbaikars and has come to represent the vibrant crossing on which it stands. After successfully restoring iconic heritage properties Metro Mumbai and Metro Kolkata, we are extremely proud to bring Eros back to prominence in a modern avatar while celebrating its glorious heritage.”
The Eros 2.0 experience
I visit Eros on opening day (almost exactly 86 years after its first one!) to witness its architectural restoration up close and book a show the very next day to experience its technology, which is a treat for the senses in a whole other way. The dual-hued exterior, with its layered ziggurat-like pinnacle, seems to be back in its prime. The embedded Art Deco horizontal stripes on either side of the entrance are also a piece of the past that find prominence in the present.
The gorgeous lobby still has the four columns with Indian designs in silver bas-relief that regulars remember fondly. Look up and a stunning sunburst frames the upper levels. The grand staircases leading upstairs on either side are a symphony of sophisticated shape and light. I’m transfixed by the twin hexagonal elevators which have had a complete overhaul and ooze opulence, from their wood panelling and golden collapsible doors, right down to the super polite liveried liftmen manning them.
Spread over three levels, the new Eros boasts fabulous foyers, a very glitzy bank of F&B concessions and lounges, and retail that will soon be seen in the form of a Swadesh store selling Indian-made products. Artworks portraying the Mumbai skyline during the day and night grace the first and second level. Everything, from the shape of the burnished door handles to the lettering on signs, has an elegant Art Deco feel. The washrooms are glamorous, with golden fittings and a pleasing black-and-white theme.
As I explore the theatre, I get a sense of its deep-rooted heritage but also the promise of a posh and perfect entertainment experience. Screens flash some of the most poignant moments in cinematic history, taking me on a celluloid journey even before I step into the main cinema hall, sitting at the top.
Unlike other single-screen theatres which have been transformed into multiplexes, this one retains the charm of one large screen. While the original cinema boasted a capacity of a whopping 1,200 across its Stalls, Balcony, and Dress Circle sections, the state-of-the-art hall today seats 305. Movie buffs are already discovering the joys of the high-quality screen and premium multi-channel sound system.
“For generations, EROS cinema has stood as a symbol of cinematic entertainment in the heart of Mumbai. Now, by integrating IMAX with Laser technology, we seamlessly blend the rich history of this iconic cinema with the cutting-edge brilliance of IMAX. At PVR INOX, we aim to elevate the cinematic experience and make it engaging for movie-goers that cannot be replicated at home. We extend a proud invitation to Mumbaikars to rediscover the magic of cinema once again at INOX Eros,” says Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, executive director, PVR INOX Limited.
This is their fifth IMAX screen in Mumbai and the only one featuring a next generation 4K laser projection, which the team at PVR INOX says, means ‘a new optical engine and a suite of proprietary IMAX technology that delivers crystal clear images, increased resolution, deeper contrast as well as the most distinct, exotic colours ever available on-screen’. They are justifiably proud of the giant screen, laser-aligned speakers, and patented DMR technology, which redefine the movie-going experience, making it truly immersive.
I find the seats at Eros 2.0 comfortable too, although they may not quite be the ooh-worthy recliners that you’d find in an Insignia or Gold screen. And to my delight, from the security to liftmen to the ushers to the staff serving food and drink at your seat, everyone appears to have been bitten by the same ‘beaming hospitality’ bug. Or, perhaps it’s the infectious old-world charm that is born from operating one of Mumbai’s most precious ‘picture palaces’ once more.