‘Bringing modern elements into old was the most challenging part’
We scoured Bollywood films from that era to get a glimpse of what the Royal Opera House looked like. We found some clues in Rajesh Khanna’s Prem Kahani ; some in Raj Kapoor’s Aag .mumbai Updated: Oct 19, 2016 09:20 IST
Abha Narain Lambah , conservation Architect
It’s terribly exciting that a structure that was so weak a few years ago, and so changed from what it was intended to be originally, has come alive. It’s so satisfying to walk in and see the lights blazing, to watch the Royal Opera House sign light up.
This has definitely been my most challenging project — the building had been stripped of its neo-classical baroque elements and turned into a cinema hall. We had few references to work with — just a book and some archival photographs. In some cases, we scraped off layers of the structure to uncover original elements.
We scoured Bollywood films from that era to get a glimpse of what the Royal Opera House looked like. We found some clues in Rajesh Khanna’s Prem Kahani ; some in Raj Kapoor’s Aag .
The most challenging part of the restoration was to bring modern elements into the old, baroque theatre — state-of-the-art acoustics, lights, air-conditioning, even firefighting facilities.
I have to thank my team for this — we worked with structural engineers, acoustics consultants, architects, and it all really came together like an orchestra.
At the Royal Opera House, the spectacle involves the space itself — it is so dramatic that it becomes part of the grand experience.
Its revival restores a unique cultural venue whose stage has hosted Lata Mangeshkar, Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadharva. And now, it hopes to host plays and concertos, symphonies and grand operas. I wait for the moment when the soprano takes the stage on Friday, and the space resonates to the sounds of 100 years ago.
Here, we can celebrate the luxury and sophistication of Bombay at the peak of its glory. We want the diamonds, we want the chiffon saris, the suits and the clinking of glasses — it all seems to have disappeared over time. We hope all of that will now return.
(As told to Pankti Mehta Kadakia)