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Jamshedji Framji Madan
Born 1856
Died 1923

Jamshedji Framji Madan (1856–1923), born in a Parsi family in Bombay, was one of the pioneers of the Indian film industry.


Early life

Madan's father suffered a huge monetary loss when Bombay Reclamation Bank, which was responsible for reclaiming land between the seven islands of Bombay, failed. JF Madan had to leave school, and he joined Elphinstone Dramatic Club as a prop boy in 1868. By 1875, this amateur club turned into a professional theatre company staging shows all over India.[1]


In 1882, Madan left the theatre company and had a short successful stint in business at Karachi. He moved to Calcutta in 1883. His success in a business of supplying goods to army cantonments enabled him to buy Corinthian Hall, where theatre shows used to be staged. Also, he took over the Elphinstone Theatre Company, where he started his career, from Cooverji Nazir, one of the founders of the theatre.[1] Corinthian Hall was turned into Corinthian Theatre, and it became very popular for Parsi Theatre shows, which were full of grandeur and had women actors, a rarity in those days.

In 1902, he started bioscope shows in a tent in Maidan, Calcutta along with similar shows in Corinthian Theatre. The equipments used were procured from Pathé Frères of Paris. Most of the films shown in those shows were from Pathé Productions. These bioscope shows were organized under the banner of Elphinstone Bioscope Company.[1] Elphinstone Bioscope Company produced a number of short films.[2] He also started film shows in Alfred Theatre, which he bought in the same year.

In 1907, he established Elphinstone Picture Palace (currently known as Chaplin Cinema), which was the first permanent show house in Calcutta. He also opened Madan Theatre and Palace of Varieties (now known as Elite Cinema).[1]

After World War I, his business started growing rapidly. In 1919, his film production business became a joint stock company with the name of Madan Theatres Limited. Madan Theatres and its associates had great control over theatre houses in India during that period. In 1919, Madan produced the first Bengali feature film, Billwamangal. It was first screened in the Cornwallis Theatre (now known as the Sree Cinema).

The Electric Theatre (now known as Regal Cinema), Grand Opera House (currently known as Globe Cinema) and Crown Cinema (now known as Uttara Cinema) were all owned by Madan Theatres.

Strategies for success

His films were marked by a high degree of technical sophistication, facilitated by his employment of experienced foreign directors like Eugenio De Liguoro, Camille Le Grand and Georgio Mannini. Such expertise was complemented by grand sets and popular mythological storylines which ensured good returns. Many of these films were versions of earlier popular theatrical forms. Liguoro directed Nala Damayanti (1920) and Dhruva Charitra (1921), Le Grand directed Ratnavali (1922), and Mannini directed Savitri Satyavan (1923). Patience Cooper, one of the early stars of Indian Cinema, acted in many of the movies produced by Madan Theatres.

Madan also took the initiative in obtaining the film rights for works of stalwarts of Bengali literature like Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Rabindranath Tagore. Madan Theatres produced films like Bishabriksha (1922 and 1928), Durgesh Nandini (1927) and Radharani (1930) based on Bankim Chandra's works. Giribala (1929) was based on Tagore's work.


Madan and his relatives were involved in a variety of businesses including liquor imports, food, pharmaceutical products, real estate, insurance, etc. But among all these, Madan Theatre was the most well-known and most well-established. It spread over Burma and Ceylon, which were part of British India.[3]

J J Madan, third son of J F Madan, became managing director of Madan Theatres after JF's death in 1923. Madan Theatres reached a peak in the late 1920s when it owned 127 theatres and controlled half of the country's box office.[4] Madan Theatres produced a number of popular and landmark films until 1937.

American actor Erick Avari is a great-grandson of J J Madan.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d pp 17-20, The Gramophone Company's First Indian Recordings, 1899-1908, Michael Kinnear, Popular Prakshan, 2004, ISBN 8171547281
  2. ^ IMDb page on Elphinstone Bioscope Company
  3. ^ BFJA page on five pillars of Indian Cinema
  4. ^ p 520, The SAGE Handbook of Media Studies, John H Downing et al., SAGE, 2004, ISBN 0761921699
  5. ^ Erick Avari at the Internet Movie Database

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