Royal Opera House to get back its glory

  • Sayli Udas Mankikar, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
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  • Updated: Jan 21, 2013 01:15 IST

Soon, you will be able to watch a play or a musical at the historic Royal Opera House in Charni Road, which is the only surviving opera house in India.

The peeling walls of the main hall, the moldy seats and the leaky ceiling will give way for crystal chandeliers, lavish baroque-style designs, gilded interiors and red carpets, which once welcomed Mumbai’s elite into the world of theatre and films.

The proposal to restore and revamp its interiors, put forth by its owners, the former royal family of Gondol, one-and-a-half years ago finally got a go-ahead from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) on Saturday.

The opera house, which was used as a cinema hall from 1935, had closed down two decades ago. It has been included in the 2012 World Monuments Watch, becoming the second building in the city after the Watson’s Hotel to figure in the list of endangered architectural sites.

“The proposal underwent a thorough scrutiny and we gave it our nod on Saturday. The owners can now seek a nod from the building proposals department,” said V Ranganathan, chairman, MHCC.

In 2006, the civic body had sent a notice to its owner, saying that the theatre was in “ruinous condition, likely to fall and dangerous to any person occupying it or passing by the same”. It had threatened the owner with prosecution and instructed that the structure be repaired. In 2008, after getting a nod for structural repairs, the building’s exterior was strengthened.

“The owners of the property have decided to revamp it at their own cost and restore it as a theatre for performing arts and events and not as a cinema house. We have finished revamping the exterior and have structurally strengthened the structure. We were waiting for an interior nod, which has finally come,” said architect Abha Narain Lambah, whose firm is working with the ex-royal family on the restoration project.

The proposal had earlier hit a heritage hurdle on the issue of a restaurant inside the Royal Opera House complex, which the committee wanted removed as it was illegal and blocking the view of the theatre. However, the owners found the original lease deed, which shows the existence of a café serving aerated water in the open area and presented the proof to the committee.


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