Help me, 1970s Hindi cinema fans!
I have seen the same ballroom or restaurant or something which I believe was not a set but an actual place—quite possibly in a hotel—in Bombay in the mid-1970s. It was used in a gazillion movies made between 1973 and 1978 or so. I call it simply “The Room” because it really defies any other kind of description; and I LOVE IT.
Generally it is used for cabaret songs or large party scenes, and the decor is…multi-layered and varied, shall we say. Eye-popping and attention-getting, in any case! Here’s a view of the ceiling and the top of the wall looking up at Mehmood in Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar (1973):
The ceiling is embellished with a ribbon of stucco-type flowers and leaves in white on a pale green background, with white lacy “chhatris” (lights or air vents?) hanging from it. Beneath that the wall joins the ceiling with a band containing bas-relief traditional Indian musicians and dancers; and below this is a busy and colorful painted mural with scenes resembling old Mughal miniture paintings of people going about daily life and playing dandiya too.
Finally, stuccoed white peacocks against the same pale green background decorate the lower half at eye level.
Large statues of deities and dancing girls are plonked down in pillars throughout the room; and as I discovered during 36 Ghante (1974), french doors—which are usually curtained off with green stripey drapes—lead out to an outdoor swimming pool with a large patio.
The poolside decor is pretty distinctive in itself, so I would imagine someone who lived in 1970s Bombay might be able to identify it by that alone!
It’s possible that the poolside scene is shot someplace different from The Room, but I don’t think so because the transition between inside and outside in the film is pretty detailed and smooth. Plus the…”thing” above the doors leading inside matches the interior decoration very well even if it looks poised to fall and crush someone below.
You can see it for yourself here:
I’ve seen Laxmi Chhaya dancing there, in Sharafat Chhod Di Maine (1976):
Padma Khanna too, with Rajesh Khanna on drums, in Chhaila Babu (1977).
One of the very best things about this place is that no matter whom you put in it or what they show up wearing, it holds its own in the attention-getting department! Even Rekha (1977’s Kachcha Chor) with her gold lamé and orange silk and brightly dressed backup musicians don’t overwhelm The Room’s awesome personality.
Plus, how clever is that carpet? You could spill just about anything on it, and never know.
The Room is used also in Kashmakash (1973), Hawas (1974), Madhosh (1974), and I am sure countless others. Manmohan hangs by the peacocks in the film Jalan (1978).
I’d really love to know the history of this place if anyone can share it with me, whether it is in fact a set or if it was part of a real building! In any case, I will continue to take as many detailed screenshots as I can of it so that someday I can reproduce it in my Fillum Ka Museum, when I build it.
There are other such locations which require proper identification too, such as this swimming pool with its beautiful deco-y arch of a diving board (I love how Vinod’s posture perfectly matches it, and his tiny tight swim trunks have nothing to do with this picture being the one I chose for illustration).
Thanks to the film Madhosh which was otherwise pretty execrable, I have identified The Room as definitely belonging to the Hotel Horizon (and the pool with it), and probably called “The Raslila”.
Hooray! Here’s how it happened (a look into the mind of an obsessed person):
First I saw the pool which is outside The Room in the opening credits, and then later there it was again in a scene, along with the entrance to the room—all matching up to what I had noticed during 36 Ghante.
There were also two or three songs and other scenes INSIDE The Room, which is oh-so-familiar by now, but one of them ended with people going out into the building rather than the pool area. And to my joy, there was a neon sign there with a name!
I was pretty sure that it was the actual door because the hallway decor was the same type, and the inside doors match the exterior one under the sign (same peacocks).
So I was pretty happy with that discovery alone! Just as I was about to kill myself because I hated Madhosh so much, there was a New Year’s Eve party in The Room—and it went dark at midnight.
THEN THIS HAPPENED.
I think people ten blocks away heard me scream.