Bollywood Cinema comes to Coventry:

Bollywood cinema today has a much wider audience and appeal, yet back in the 1950s and 60s it provided a popular link for the South Asian communities to their “homeland”. In Coventry, the Bollywood cinema scene was the one of the few sources of entertainment the South Asian community had. Its roots lie in a few individuals who were keen to provide some form of cultural entertainment and thus societies such as The Indian Cultural and Welfare Society were established. The two main cinemas were the The Ritz in Foleshill and the Palladium in Hillfields but the Savoy on Radford Road and the Hippodrome were also popular venues initially. The Ritz and the Palladium were recently the subject of an exhibition at The Herbert.

The cinemas were a focal point for people to come together and socialise. Popular Indian films were loaned from Indian High Commission and screened to packed audiences. In its heyday, the cinema scene was popular amongst the families. While as the pubs were the domain of mostly men, the cinema appealed to the whole family.

These entrepreneurial individuals were also successful in luring famous Bollywood actors and actresses to make special appearances. The glamour of Bollywood and the cinema scene thus provided a popular link to “home”, and an opportunity for all the community to come together. The fond memories of which still linger on with the people who were around during this vibrant period in Coventry’s history.

The following are some personal recollection of the period:

Bhag Singh came to Coventry in 1956
Yes, we often visited Ritz cinema, I was a shareholder in it. Whatever the film house was full. People didn’t have any other source of entertainment. This was the only source of entertainment. As the number of televisions grew, the number of cinema visitors dropped. I know Vijayantimala came over once, others came as well. You know the Coventry theatre, which has been demolished, was the place where they mostly performed. Now they come in large groups to perform in concerts. Only few stars visited at that time. 

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