In the late 1990s, when art curator Birad Rajaram Yagnik walked into the iconic Cinema Ghar at Banjara Hills for the first time, he was awed by the very structure. “I had displayed photographs shot by the famous film maker Bimal Roy. His daughter Aparajitha Sinha had commissioned the project. MF Hussain provided the place free of cost,” recalls Yagnik.
Like Yagnik, several art aficionados across Hyderabad were left speechless when they recently woke up to the news that Hussain’s unique museum was to be razed. There’s just a pile of rubble at the site now. “Cinema Ghar represented MF Hussain connect with Hyderabad. It was his way of celebrating the city in an era when hardly any art galleries existed,” says Yagnik, who is also an author.
Once a key landmark at the upmarket Road No 12, Banjara Hills, Cinema Ghar was inaugurated in 1999 by Bollywood actor Madhuri Dixit. Only the lucky few who got a chance to visit the unique gallery know how close it was to the late legendary artist’s heart.
“I recall a three-storied building. The basement had a cinema theatre for around 50 people. The upper two floors were galleries with large paintings by Hussain. I remember the series on Gajagamini — paintings inspired by Madhuri Dixit,” says Yagnik.
Historian Anuradha Reddy, who is among those who have visited Cinema Ghar on a few occasions, was shocked by the demolition. “I went there a couple of times. It was such a lively place. I remember watching special shows and non-commercial films there,” says Reddy, who is also the convenor of INTACH. She shared a great rapport with MF Hussain.
“His major work was on Hindu deities, some of which were sold abroad. His roots were in Hyderabad. It was always such a wonderful experience to visit Cinema Ghar. Razing the culture and history of Hyderabad is so sad,” she mourns.
One of the striking features of Cinema Ghar was its black-and-white exterior, with replicas of Hussain’s trademark sketches. The interiors were vibrant with the late artist’s paintings, each a masterpiece in its own right. The structure also housed a library with hundreds of books on cinema, art and music. Another highlight was the gallery which displayed photos of Madhuri Dixit, Dada Saheb Phalke, Tabu and others besides a collection of digital albums of the Beetles, AR Rehman, Martha Graham and many others. The 50-seater theatre, equipped with a Dolby sound system was a stand-out feature too.
Art curator Kaali Sudhir was just 12 when he got the opportunity to visit the iconic structure along with his father. “I remember visiting Cinema Ghar with my dad. As we entered, a man with a long white beard (Hussain) offered us tea. He talked to us for about 15 minutes. I looked around and saw several paintings hanging in the atrium. It was one of the most wonderful experiences,” recalls Sudhir.
Hussain’s family sold the property last year. “I have very fond memories of Cinema Ghar. I had even gone for its inauguration,” recalls artist Laxman Aelay. "At the inauguration, many well-known artists were present and so was Madhuri Dixit. Hussain also had a special screening of his film Meenakshi: The tale of three cities in the beautifully-designed theatre,” he says, adding that even the souvenir shop selling prints of Hussain’s paintings attracted a crowd. “It’s really said that the last link that we had with the great artist is now lost.” he sighs.
— With inputs from Reshmi Chakravorty
Tower of victory
I remember Hussain Sa’ab telling us that the tower in his compound was his Vijay Sthambh - his victory tower... and adding that though the tower had been erected, victory was pending.
—Vinita Pittie, couturier and art collector
A venue to remember
I remember the tea parties and the get-togethers which used to be a regular affair. Whenever Hussain visited Hyderabad, he would organise a get-together at Cinema Ghar. On every such occasion, Hussain Sa’ab used to showcase his works. It was a feast for us. I miss all of that. It is sad that such an iconic structure in Hyderabad has been razed.
— Hanumanth Rao, artist