A secret Cinema in Le Corbusier's Chandigarh

Neelam Theatre is revealed in these photos by Edmund Sumner

by Rossana Vinci
17

Originally envisioned as a new metropolis in 1950, Chandigarh, the architecturally powerful new capital for the state of Punjab was the joint dream of Indian prime minister Jawarharlal Nehru and Le Corbusier, who prepared its master plan.

It comprised three of Corbu’s most dramatic buildings: the High Court, first to be finished; the Secretariat, the largest at almost 800 feet long; and, most masterful, the Legislative Assembly.

© Laurian Ghinitoiu

 

This utopian city has become both a fading monument to modernism and an important part of the legacy of the French architect. The 15,000-acre complex of government buildings, housing, parks, and recreation facilities that has since become a UNESCO Heritage site, renowned as one the few planned cities that, to a certain degree, actually works.

© Laurian Ghinitoiu

© Laurian Ghinitoiu

 

Neelam Theatre, one of three cinemas built as part of Le Corbusier's construction of Chandigarh, is revealed in these new images by British photographer Edmund Sumner.
Built shortly after India gained independence in the early 1950s, Neelam is located in the bustling industrial area of Sector 17.

© Edmund Sumner

© Edmund Sumner

 

Designed by architect Aditya Prakash under the guidance of Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, the modernist structure stands to this day in its original form and continues to screen Bollywood films.
However, without UNESCO World Heritage protection, the future of the cinema remains uncertain.

© Edmund Sumner

 

© Edmund Sumner

 

Edmund Sumner about his experience of shooting the 960-seat Neelam cinema: “I had been working in India two to three times a year since the mid-2000s and had long-heard stories of this cinema. There were few photographs of it, and many people weren’t sure if it was still open. I inquired and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was indeed operating. The manager was delighted to have me photograph the space, although I was only allowed to shoot in between screenings...

© Edmund Sumner

 

...Bollywood films are famous for their length and as the changeover between screenings was only 15 minutes, I spent most of my day there. This cinema reflects a time and a place, both past, present and future. Although the fate of the cinema remains uncertain, I was grateful to be able to freeze a moment in time. - Edmund Sumner”

© Edmund Sumner

 

© Edmund Sumner

 

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Cover image: © Edmund Sumner

 

 

 

Comments
  • Aaron Goodman

    Chandigargh is a wonderful city, visited back in 2001, always thought as an architect, this is a city with mod-style. Only thing missing was a light-rail system, or mono-rail to run between the avenues. If I could travel again, this is one of the stops I would make. Wonderful people and place....

  • Susan Burling

    Nice looking cinema hall..

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