In the year 1914, when the whole world was under a great political tension and turmoil leading to the first global war, a few commoners in the remote village of Sakchi (where the magic wand of the Tatas was opening new vistas of creation) sowed the seed of peace, harmony and brotherhood.
It was on the 4th of the February of that year due to the efforts of late Harinath Bose, late Amulya Chattoraj, Sri Jatindranath Dutta and Sri Mayananda Chattoraj, was established at 44, M. Road, the Sakchi Dramatic Club, which formed the nucleus around which the Milanee grew and developed.
Though the four named above may» be called the founders of Milanee, Sri Debendra Lal Banerjee, Sri Ashutosh Sanyal, Sri Sris Chattopadhyaya, Sri Birendranath Chakravorty, Sri Girish Chandra Bose, Sri Narendranath Bose, Sri Gatigovinda Chattopadhyaya, Sri Janakinath Das were really instrumental in giving shape to the club.
The first office bearers of the Club were: President — Dr. Shantiram Chakravarti; Vice-President — Sri Charuchandra Ghosh; Hony. Secretary — Raisaheb Satishchandra Bose; Hony. Treasurer — Sri Pannalal Banerjee. In the beginning the club had only 32 members.
Music and drama were the only amusements offered. On the first drama night organised under the banner of the newly formed club “Prafulla” and “Abu Hossain” were staged with remarkable success.
With the increase in the popularity of the club and its membership, the club obtained from the Steel Company a plot of land in the Bistupur area (present Ice-Factory and Soda Fountain premises), where the club erected its own building. The club house was constructed by M/s. Ramdas Ramcharan assisted by M/s. Kar & Co., M/s. Kiamuddin Khan and M/s. ‘Baldeo Singh. The activities of the club were enlarged. Besides, drama and music, indoor and outdoor games were introduced and a Library was opened.
As Sakchi began to grow in population and importance the town and its flag railway station (Kalimati) were christened as Jamshedpur and Tatanagar respectively. Some more recreational clubs, the Saraswat Sammi- lani, Oriya Dramatic Club came into existence having similar programme of activities like the Sakchi Dramatic Club. As this was likely to result in un- healthy portends and to strain the cordial atmosphere that prevailed, Dr. Chakravarti, a living embodiment of universal friendship and brotherhood made honest efforts for unity.
It was due to his initiative that the Sara- swat Sammilani and the Oriya Dramatic Club were amalgamated with the Sakchi Dramatic Club in 1920. A new name, The Milanee, for the amalga- mated unit was coined by Sri Jnan Chandra Chattopadhyaya, the then Headmaster of the K.M.P.M. School to commemorate this unique event of harmonious blending of hearts and ideas.
The immediate necessity of further expansion of works made the Tatas acquire the building and site of the Sakchi Dramatic Club (now the ‘Milanee’). The Management of Tisco considered the case of Milanee sympathetically and settled the present site at a nominal rent. With the money received as compensation from Tisco and as donation from individu- al members the construction of the present building was taken on hand.
The plan and estimates were prepared by Mr. Warnigg and Sri Benode Bihari Dhar, the then Deputy Chief Town Engineer and Civil Engineer, Tisco respectively. M/s. Kar&Co., Contractors took up the work of construc- tion of the building.
On 22nd May 1921, Sri T. W. Tutwiler, the then General Manager, Tisco, laid the foundation stone of the buiding and it was he who performed the opening ceremony of the building on the 17th March, 1924, when the construction was completed after about three years at a cost of Rs. 52,000. “lraner Rani” a historical drama was staged on the occasion of the opening ceremony.
The performance of this drama created such a stir among the public that Sir Dorab Tata (son of Jamshedji Tata) and many high officers, Indian and foreign expressed their desire to witness the show. A repeat performance was therefore arranged a few months later.
Though the Tisco supplied the structural material at very much reduced price and the extension of the original building for the housing of the Library was taken up mostly with the donation received from M/s. Durrell & Co. yet the Milanee was in heavy debt due to the building construction.
ln order to tide over the financial crisis the Milanee, acting under the advice of Sri D. M. Madan, the then Chief Accountant, Tisco, enetered into an agreement with M/s. J. F. Madan, the reputed film distributors of Calcutta.
The Milanee was transformed into a Cinema Hall, displaying two shows daily for a few years. Ultimately by the grace of God and due to the solemn determination and sincerity of some of its members, the Milanee was out of the woods.
The passing away of Dr. Shantiram Chakravarti, the Founder President was a great blow to the progress and development of the club. As a glowing tribute and fitting remembrance to his love and affection for the Milanee, the club auditorium was dedicated as a mark of respect to his memory.
Group photo taken on the ocassion of the Silver Jubilee of the Club in 1939
In February 1939, the club celebrated the Silver Jubilee with great pomp and jubilation, to mark the completion of 25 years in the service of the cosmopolitan community of Jamshedpur. The Silver Jubilee function was inaugurated by Sir Jehangir Ghandy, the then General Manager, Tisco on the 3rd February, 1939. The programme which lasted for 10 days included variety entertainments, staging of two dramas— “Dalia” and “Abhigyan” by club members. Sri M. L. Tewary and Sri J. N. Dastoor were the Chief Guests of the two dramatic performances. An interesting programme of the Silver Jubilee celebration was the “feeding of the poor,” in the club campus.
It is a matter of pride for every one of us that Milanee is the first private and amateur institution in India to have a Revolving Stage. The untiring efforts of Sri Susthir Basu and Sri Gopi Nath Mukherjee coupled with the plan and scheme of Sri Satu Sen (the noted stage manager of public theatre of Calcutta) led to the completion of the stage work in record time. On the 13th April, 1940, Mr. T. H. Bird, the then Chief Town Administrator Tisco performed the opening ceremony of the revolving stage. Sri Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s “Pather Dabi” was staged on the occasion by the members of the Club.
The hall was packed to its full capacity. The rush was so great that after the tickets were sold out many people approached for standing accomodation in the auditorium and were prepared to pay for the highest seat. The change of the scenes, the stage setting in the drama created great sensation in the town. Owing to some mechanical defect and also for utilising the stage for other purposes the revolving stage was ultimately dismantled to ring the curtain rather prematurely on a very glorious chapter of the club’s history.
The second World War brought in its train lot of problems and complications to disturb the tenor of life in Jamshedpur— The social and cultural atmosphere of this industrial township got polluted in the din and bustle of the rumblings of jeeps and weapon carriers, intermittent hooting of sirens at odd hours heralding an imminent alarm of an anticipated air-attack. Coupled with this was the morbid experience of horrid “black out” nights paralysing the gay evening life at clubs into boredom and inactivity under dim lights inside panelled doors. The Milanee at this time saved from the vicissitudes of being requisitioned and converted into a Emergency Hospital or a Warden Post was leased out to Khan Bahadur R. P. Patel for a period of two years at a nominal rent of Rs. 220 — per month to organise regular cinema shows for the public.
Executive Committee - 1944
The after effects of war over, the Milanee in keeping with its traditions as a centre and forum of cultural and recreational activities launched the idea of Music Conference and Competition on an elaborate scale. Starting with March 1953, the conferences of Milanee witnessed an unique assembly of celebrities in every domain of music and dance.
In the year 1961 an all out effort was made for renovating the auditorium and the stage. The hall and the stage were dismantled and rebuilt. The capacity of the auditorium was increased to over 1000. The stage was enlarged for better view and to suit performance of professional troupes in dance and drama. Since then more additions and alterations have been made to the building. The Gymnasium, The Table Tennis and Card room annexe have been constructed. The compound wall has been rebuilt.
In 1964 Milanee completed 50 years of its triumphant and glorious existence as a centre of culture and recreation. The Golden Jubilee Celebrations were inaugurated by Sri Sushil Kumar Bage, Minister for Community Development, Bihar. The programme of the function included “Udvarshiki” drama by club members. “Chalachitta Chanchari” and “Vyapika Vidaya” by Rupakar (Calcutta). “Ramlila” and “Sri Chaitanya” ballet by Bharatiya Silpi Parishad (Calcutta) “Arun Barun Kiranmala”— ballet by Manimela Mahakendra (Calcutta). The programme of events also included Tagore songs, Indian Classical Music — vocal and instrumental and dance performances.
During its long and chequered history the members of the Milanee have staged on its board more than 125 dramas — a unique achievement. In some of the dramas reputed actors, male and female, from Calcutta participated as Guest Artists. Thus we had Kali Sarkar, Chabi Biswas, Jahar Ganguly, Kanu Banerjee, Sabitabrata Dutt, Sm. Gita Dutt appearing underthe banner of Milanee. The club has also earned distinction in Drama Competitions, One-Act plays in and outside Jamshedpur. Apart from its own production the club had arranged, for the benefit of its members and the elites of the town, several drama festivals through the good offices of public theatrical troupes of Calcutta such as “Ingit”, “Rupakar” “Bohurupee” “Theatre Centre” “Nandanik” “Nakshatra” etc.
The Milanee auditorium with its stage facilities is of immense benefit to the people of Jamshedpur as the venue for entertainment and recreation. It is on the Milanee stage that the people of Jamshedpur witnessed the histrionics of Sisir Bhaduri and Ahindra Choudhury, the sorcery of world famous P. C. Sorcar and Gogia Pasha, the rhythrric ballet of Uday Shankar and Simkie. It was from the Milanee rostrum that Pandit Omkarnath regaled the audience by chanting the Vandemataram hymn, that maestro Ustad Alauddin Khan kept them spell bound with his artistry on the Sarod. lt was from this pulpit that Swami Abhedanada, the celebrated disciple of Ramkrishna Paramhansa delivered his lectures on Vedanta philosophy.
Executive Committee - 1974
The year 1974 unfolded a new chapter in the eventful history of the Milanee. The Diamond Jubilee Celebrations not only commemorate the completion of sixty glorious years of its existance but also infuse the members with a renewed spirit of dedication to live upto the ideals cheris- ed by its founders.
What appeared to be a day dream, a wishful thinking and a modest endeavour to the pioneers at its inception, has turned out to be, with the passage of time, a living example of fulfilment of a mission.
Gone are the olden days of Milanee and its great stalwarts, but the Milanee still stands out prominently in the heart of the town and that of its people as a magnificient edifice, as a monument of unity and creative effort, as a premier institution providing the forum for cultural activities for one and for all.The cultural contribution of the Milanee is thus one of the most brilliant and unforgetable episodes in the social history of Jamshedpur and its eventful career will be ever remembered by the posterity who in their turn would hold and pass on to the future—the legacy of the great cultural heritage and proud traditions of the Milanee.
Author unknown. Published in the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir, 1974.