ANANDILAL Podar Road in south Mumbai that stretches from Marine Lines station to the Metro Cinema junction is home to an iconic hundred-year-old Parsi bakery, a Masjid curiously located in the middle of a busy road, and a cinema house, originally built by a Hollywood studio.
The road that was once called the 1st Marine Street — a name still visible on some shop hoardings — was recently in the news after a section of the road caved in following heavy rain on June 25. The road was repaired urgently, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi due to visit the city the following day. Anandilal Podar was known to have contributed to the freedom movement and towards education.
Hailing from Nawalgarh in Rajasthan, Podar, in 1921, established the Anandilal Education Society, now called Anandilal Podar Trust, with Mahatma Gandhi as its first chairman trustee. City historian Deepak Rao says: “He was known to have contributed towards getting people educated. His family continued the work done by him. Hence, there are several educational institutes and hospitals in his and his family’s name.” Right at the beginning of the road is the Metro INOX theatre, built in 1938 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), the Hollywood studio. Rao says: “The Parsis residing in the area were not too happy with an American studio movie theatre. Only Hollywood movies played there. There were massive protests by the community at the time. Eventually, the movie theatre was purchased by someone else in 1970 after which Bollywood movies started playing there.” As one walks further, there is Gol Masjid, oddly positioned in the middle.
Imam Israel Ahmed from the Masjid says: “The Masjid was first formally opened here in 1958 though it had stood here a good 10-12 years before that.” Mehboob Khan, another person, who has served the Masjid all his life, says the road is a poignant symbol of religious harmony. “There is a very popular sight of how we were doing our jumma prayers outside the mosque, and from one of the side road, a Ganesh statue was being taken for puja. The road often sees large crowds coming to pray at the Masjid, sometimes stretching right down the road till Metro Cinema.” Khan adds how he “remembers former Maharashtra Chief Minister Abdul Rehman Antulay would visit the Masjid, especially during Eid, even when he was Chief Minister.”
Rao says that when the structure of the mosque first came up, it was not in the middle of the road. “When the mosque came up, there were five old structures on the left side. The stretch of the road to the right of the mosque was the only one to travel. But not many vehicles passed by that spot hence it wasn’t a problem. However, a few years after the mosque came up, the five buildings had to be demolished thereby placing the mosque in the middle of the road like a traffic island,” Rao said. Further down is Walter D’Souza garden named after the hockey player who represented India at Olympics. A few metres away on the opposite side is the 105-year-old Irani Cafe Sassanian Boulangerie. The cafe was started by Rustom Yazdabadi in 1913, Sassanian was in 1947 taken over by the Kola family later. “The pride of place the cafe enjoys can be seen from the celebrations that took place when the it completed 100 years in 2013,” Rao adds.