Nazir Hoosein, owner of Mumbai’s iconic Liberty cinema, dies at 78

Nazir Hoosein, owner of Mumbai’s iconic Liberty cinema, one of the few surviving Art Deco single-screen theatres in the city, has died aged 78. Hoosein was suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and died at Bombay Hospital late on Sunday night.

Liberty cinema was founded by Nazir’s father, Habib Hoosein, in 1947 and the theatre was named in honour of India’s independence from the British Raj.

Architect MA Ridley Abbott began the project but died in a plane crash within a year of construction into the project. John B Fernandes completed it while Waman N Namjoshi designed the musical themed interiors.

The six-storey Art Deco theatre opened on Parsi New Year, 21 March 1949, with Mehboob Khan’s Andaz (1949) starring Raj Kapoor, Nargis and Dilip Kumar. The theatre also contained a private preview theatre that was often used to screen films for distributors and critics.

Nazir Hoosein still resided on the fifth floor of the building. He took over the theatre in 1971 after his father’s death. Unlike Regal, Eros and Strand, which largely showed Hollywood films, Liberty showed Hindi films. In 1994, the family romance Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, directed by Sooraj R Barjatya, played at Liberty for 125 weeks, 44 of them houseful.

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Nazir Hoosein was also head of the Motorsport Association of India and named vice-president of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) in 2005. He also founded the popular Himalayan Rally in 1980.

Nazir Hoosein was cremated this morning at Chandanwadi after the arrival of his daughter Aranka from the US. His wife of 29 years, Mrunal Gole, told The Times of India newspaper that it was his wish to be cremated.

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