The vintage cinema haunt of Bangalore’s movie buffs, B.R.V. Theatre nurtures memories of a bygone era

You may have passed by this building almost every day if you have to go through Shivajinagar and yet, the quaint B.R.V. Theatre may have easily slipped your attention. Located at the entrance of Central Street, the present Golden Palm Army Canteen has a legacy that goes back to over a century. While many may know it now as a canteen and Bangalore’s older residents remember it fondly as a theatre, B.R.V. was initially started as canteen/store and armoury of the Bangalore Rifle Volunteers denoting the abbreviation.

The B.R.V was part of the Madras Army and formed on November 21, 1884 and stationed in KGF, Mysore and Whitefield. The unit was later merged Coorg and Mysore Rifles on April 1, 1917 to become the sixth Bangalore, Coorg and Mysore Batallion.

The original building demolished in 1905 and rebuilt to the present tiled-roof stone-covered structure in 1912. Housing a billiards room, reading room, ladies room and a bar on the ground floor and the regimental offices, stores and other rooms on the first floor, the B.R.V. was famous for its main gallery which is 120 feet long and 60 feet wide and easily accommodates 1,000 people.

The place has donned many roles from armoury to theatre to defence services canteen. But one of the fondest memories people had of the building before its theatre avatar was the grand balls organised by the YWCA in its initial days on its grooved teakwood floored gallery.

Later, B.R.V. was the place Bangaloreans hung out if they wanted to see the latest English movies in town. A. Premchand, whose father V. Anand was the manager of the theatre from 1960, says the silver screen came to B.R.V. as part of the defence services cinema. “B.R.V. was one of 22 such entertainment hotspots open across India at that time. The first film to be screened here was Ujala in 1959 starring Shammi Kapoor. Opened for public viewing, the city theatre was soon converted into an English movie joint and in 1960, The Captain’s Table, a British comedy film, was the first English movie to be screened here. This was followed up by a David Niven starrer Happy Anniversary, Marilyn Monroe’s The Apartment and Some Like It Hot. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, the Beatles movies A Hard Day’s Night and Help, the Pink Panther series and The Great Escape were some of the most memorable movies that ran for many months here.”

Prem adds that B.R.V. was the only theatre in those days that was strict about not letting anyone below 18 for adult films. “After dad’s transfer to Madras, the management started to struggle with the film joint and movies were doing well in other theatres like Lido. The theatre eventually shut down and the last movie to be screened was Sean Connery’s James Bond thriller You Only Live Twice.”

Built in the Tudor style of architecture, the building’s gabled entrance-porch and conspicuous battlements is also synonymous with the designs of the Bible Society group of buildings (at the junction of St. Mark’s and Kasturba Roads) and gives Bangalore a very medieval look even today. While the building may have lost their prime status and importance, the legacy and fond memories attached to it will endure in the hearts of the city’s residents.