FRIDAY REVIEW

Tale of a theatre

DUNSTAN S. MORRIS

LIVING HISTORY: S.M.T Palace Theatre has withstood the ravages of time.

LIVING HISTORY: S.M.T Palace Theatre has withstood the ravages of time.  

S.M.T. Palace Theatre in South Kollam is probably the oldest cinema theatre in Kollam. It was constructed as a town hall to commemorate the shashtabda poorthi (60th birthday) of the then ruler of erstwhile Travancore, Sri Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma.

The people of Kollam accorded the Maharaja a reception as part of the shashtabda poorthi celebrations in 1917.

At a meeting held afterwards at Rama Varma Club, Kollam, a trust was formed that was authorised to construct a town hall to commemorate the event. The Government donated 1.15 acres of land.

The project was funded by subscribers to the celebration and the people of Kollam. Moolam Thirunal passed away in 1924. The town hall was completed in 1936.

Embossed in large figures on the central edifice of the twin-tower theatre is 1917, which represents the year of the shashtabda poorthi celebrations.

A large star, set in a circular glass window, appears as the centrepiece of the central edifice.

However, conspicuous by its absence is a life-size coloured canvas of the Maharaja that used to be hung at the entrance, probably dating back to the day the hall was inaugurated.

The town hall initially catered to public functions and served as a cinema theatre as well. Shortly, as per an earlier agreement, it was leased out as a theatre.

The Sri Moolam Shashtabda Poorthy Memorial Trust, who are the owners, plan to reconstruct the building, preserving only the central edifice. It will primarily serve the needs of the socially backward and underprivileged classes. In a way, it is a tribute to the memory of the Maharaja who was known to be sympathetic to the cause of the poor and downtrodden.