When Nights were Young in Mussoorie
azzayindia | January 5, 2009 at 01:01 amby
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While researching for this story I came across many facts and found the cabaret dancer who was 16 then and she told me under anonymity that their were whitecollared rich people of Mussoorie who use to visit her at Night Hours discreetly.
Mussoorie, 4 Jan: Gone are the days when Mussoorie was alive with night life, with several kinds of entertainment available such as live bands, shows, ball room dancing and cabarets.
According to Gopal Bhardwaj, an expert on Mussoorie, the town was famous for its night life during the British Raj - perfect location for the Army officers and British women, as both were here to escape the heat of the plains of the Indian subcontinent. Apart from them, Mussoorie, in the ‘40s, was a playground of the Nawabs, Talukdars, Maharajas and other Indian Princes. No one was allowed on the Mall without a tie.
According to Vijay Negi, eminent documentary film maker, a regimental band played from the bandstand during the summers, enlivening the mood of the strollers on the Mall Road and the residents at Shaadi Bhavan, now called Sant Nirankari Mission Building on Camel’s Back Road. Two popular hotels at that time were the Savoy and Hackman’s. According to Chait Singh, a waiter at a hotel in Mussoorie, his grandfather used to talk about the ‘Froth Drinkers’ Club’ at Hackman’s Hotel. The gentlemen gathered to drink beer at 11 a.m., each day, and blow the froth. The one who blew it furthest was declared the champion for the day and got a free beer.
About some years later, Vinay Chaturvedi, who worked as receptionist in 1977- 78, reminisces: “We used to go talent scouting for cabaret artists in Delhi months earlier and book them for the Season. The cabaret artists were paid Rs 5000 per month, with lodging, board and drinks provided by the management. Deepa, Liza, Sonia, Tina and Breta from Bangalore were in demand during those days. The entry was Rs 10, each night, and on special occasions, it used to go up to Rs 50-100.
Vinay adds that the Cabaret at Hakman’s ended due to the high rate of entertainment tax, which broke the backbone of the hotel.
The ballroom of the Savoy was an architectural marvel. A large hall, with a balcony running right around it, it was hung with taper lit chandeliers. In 1907, the tapers were replaced with electric bulbs. The Savoy orchestra played every night and the ballroom was full of waltzing couples. This Ball Room Dancing carried on till the late ‘60’s and ‘70’s along with the regular Miss Mussoorie and Weston Queen contest.
Keith Stackpole, the British tourist, who had come to visit Woodstock school in search of his Grandmother, said, “The Bougainvilleas at Savoy reminded one of the Victorian Era.” He was sad at the Savoy resale, but hoped that it would keep its old values intact.
Hackman’s Hotel was famous for its cabaret performance by lovely artists from Delhi and Bombay (now Mumbai). Hackman’s had a huge Ball Room, which could accommodate 50 couples at one time. The dances used to carry on till late in the night.
Recalling those days, Rakesh says, “We used to be in class 2 in Hampton Court and, while returning from school, we used to peep in for a glimpse of pictures of Cabaret Dancers on display at the Hackman’s Display window at the entrance and were shooed away by the hotel staff, as we were not adults. The curiosity has not died out till this day on what went on inside.”
Now, Hackman’s is biting the dust and, Savoy, the hauntingly beautiful Heritage Hotel has been sold to a wealthy party from Kanpur and is being renovated. People are hoping that the hotel’s structure is kept intact.
Vikas Hari, Owner of the Rialto Cinema, recalls there were 6 cinema halls here - Picture Palace, Jubilee, Basant, Capital, Vasu and Rialto.
Writer-actor Tom Alter has written a novel tiled “Rerun at Rialto” after being inspired by the years of watching films there.
Ashish, a shopkeeper in Landour, says that his fascination for movies began at Picture Palace when he saw “Omar Mukhtar - Lion Of the desert” starring Anthony Quinn.
He further added that classics like that had addicted him to good cinema. However, he lamented that since the late ‘80s and ‘90s, due to the economic boom in the country, with more money in the hands of the nouveau-riche, who did not care for culture but thought it their right to enter any event happening in the town, leading to hooliganism, which further led to a decrease in events like the cabaret and ball dancing in Mussoorie.
The cinema halls also closed due to the ridiculously high rate of entertainment tax.
Night life is an integral part of any tourist destination, and without that it will not attract more tourists. Thus the dream of value addition, generating revenue and employment for the state will remain a distant one until the old culture is given a new lease of life. Today, Mussoorie has become a destination mostly for the ‘chhola bhatura’ day visitors, who do the hill station on the cheap.source:http://www.garhwalpost.com/centrenewsdetail.aspx?id=9736;&nt=Uttarakhand
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