(Last Updated on : 26/12/2008)
Madan theatre is a Parsi-theatre chain. Its owner, Jamshedji Framji Madan (1857-1923), was born in Bombay and had two brothers active in local Parsi groups. At the age of 11, he joined the Elphinstone Dramatic Club
as backstage properties boy for a monthly salary of Rs 4. Soon, on the strength of his imitative abilities, he was cast in small parts. He became popular as a beautiful, singing female impersonator when the club turned professional as the Elphinstone Theatrical Company. Framji Madan became popular after acting in N. N. Parekh's version of Amanat's Indarsabha, and Sulemanishamshir i.e. 'Suleman's Sword' in 1873.
In 1882 he moved to Karachi and the following year to Calcutta, where he set up a hugely lucrative wine and general merchandise concern in 1885. He also opened shops across India as a commissariat supplier to British army cantonments. Before long, he bought the Corinthian Hall where touring Parsi troupes used to perform. In the 1890s, he took over the controlling share in the Elphinstone on one of its trips to Calcutta, and transferred its base there. After a few Bengali entrepreneurs introduced 'bioscope' motion-picture shows, in 1902 he began screening them in tents separately, and on the same evening's bill as dramatic performances for variety programmes.
The same year, artists of his Corinthian Theatre along with those of Amarendra Dutta's Classic Theatre were among the first to be recorded on disc by the Gramophone Company. Beginning in 1907, Madan constructed around 170 cinema halls all over India, constituting an entertainment empire known as Madan Theatres. He registered as a joint stock company in 1918 producing and distributing short documentaries and feature films initially of its own stage productions, like the silent Dhruva charitra i.e. 'Triumph of Devotion' in 1921.
Madan bought the famous Bombay-based Victoria Company. He bought it after its owner died in 1913. He contracted Agha Hashr Kashmiri as playwright in 1916, who supplied many Shakespearean adaptations and Narayan Prasad Betab later. His Anglo-Indian leading ladies, Patience Cooper and Seeta Devi were renowned ladies. He encouraged the Alfred Company from Bombay to use the Curzon Theatre. This was named after the Viceroy of India during 1899-1905 in Calcutta, to the extent that from 1910 it became known as the Alfred Theatre. He also entered Bengali theatre
by floating the Bengali Theatrical Company and facilitated Sisir Bhaduri's professional debut there in Vidyavinod's Alamgir in 1921. After his death, the business continued briefly under his son J. J. Madan. It was a prominent change that the original Alfred Company merged with Madan Theatres in 1927. It happened before folding up because of competition with the arrival of the talkies.