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Photo exhibition

A trip back to Bollywood via memory lane….

These images commissioned by Cutting East and taken by photographer Rehan Jamil were originally part of wider display of photographs, posters and other memorabilia documenting the history of South Asian Cinema in the East End.

The photo portraits are linked to an oral history project from the council’s Cutting East Film Festival in 2014. Local residents were interviewed by young people about the unique experience of seeing South Asia on the big screen in London’s East End.

Four venues in the borough were dedicated to showing movies from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan including the Naz on Brick Lane and the Liberty in Mile End. The venues were not just picture houses but important communal hubs. 

The following portraits capture a generation of cinema-goers who took part in the project and remember the picture houses of the 60s and 70s.

Their detailed anecdotes demonstrate the significance of these cinemas to the Asian community through providing a joyful and extravagant escape from everyday London life.

Excerpts from these memories are recorded on this page.

With ongoing thanks to the oral history participants: Achyia, Ansar, Dan, Muquim, Neswar, Raju, and Rokshana.

This original oral project and exhibition was supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Sharing Heritage programme, Tower Hamlets Council and the ‘A’ Team Arts House of Talent group.

It was exhibited as part of the Cutting East Film Festival premiering at The Genesis Cinema before touring sites across the borough.

Back to Bollywood

1 of 8
Ansar: If you wanted to watch something on the big screen and you wanted the whole effect of the cinema then video was no match
2 of 8
Achyia: Do I miss them? I do actually… I was only thinking the other day I was thinking that it was a lovely time
3 of 8
Dan: It was palatial, well it was called the Palaseum, but it looked like towers and a big roof and grandeur
4 of 8
Muquim: I came to live in Tower Hamlets in 1974, and by 1976 I was fortunate enough to buy the cinema which was the Naz cinema
5 of 8
Neswar: Sometimes friendship develops from going to cinema hall… People are more civilised with one another. It’s a meeting place
6 of 8
Raju: For Asians going to the cinema as part of the cultural DNA
7 of 8
Rokshana: I mean even now if I get a waft of a lot of samosas I think of the cinema
8 of 8
Mrs Nessa: First time I went was in commercial road, me and my husband saw a Bangladeshi, Bengali film

Ansar: If you wanted to watch something on the big screen and you wanted the whole effect of the cinema then video was no match
Achyia: Do I miss them? I do actually… I was only thinking the other day I was thinking that it was a lovely time
Dan: It was palatial, well it was called the Palaseum, but it looked like towers and a big roof and grandeur
Muquim: I came to live in Tower Hamlets in 1974, and by 1976 I was fortunate enough to buy the cinema which was the Naz cinema
Neswar: Sometimes friendship develops from going to cinema hall… People are more civilised with one another. It’s a meeting place
Raju: For Asians going to the cinema as part of the cultural DNA
Rokshana: I mean even now if I get a waft of a lot of samosas I think of the cinema
Mrs Nessa: First time I went was in commercial road, me and my husband saw a Bangladeshi, Bengali film