100 Years
100 Stories

100 Years 100 Stories

Permanent &
Non-fading: Bharat’s Colourex

An advertisment of Colourex work at the Metro Cinema, Mumbai, BFT Archives
Colourex cement pavillion at the Fourth Indian Industries Fair held in Bombay, BFT Archives.
Colourex used for dado work in the Bombay Mutual Building, Mumbai, 1935. BFT Archives.
The colourex catalogue details the available shades, BFT Archives.

On 8th June 1938, Bharat announced a record breaking 35,000 sq feet of Colourex work in Bombay’s swankiest new cinema - Metro on Dhobi Talao. Bharat took great pride in obtaining this project after comparative tests and keen competition. Here’s a look into Colourex - Bharat’s signature colored cement…

Bharat which always kept itself abreast of the latest design and technological developments, developed its own line of coloured cement. “Colourex”, as Bharat’s new baby was called, was positioned in such a way as to appeal to every stakeholder in the building process. Colourex was at par with the best. It was manufactured using the best and most carefully selected raw materials from Europe and America. Its quality was guaranteed by the American Society for Testing Materials. It was essentially Portland cement of the finest quality. Except that where Portland cement could be gray and dull sometimes, Colourex was available in a wide variety of shades.

Colourex could be supplied in any shade: one only had to share a sample of the shade and voila! Bharat would reproduce it. Standard colours included neutrals, pastels, classics such as Terracotta red and bright blues and yellows. Bafflingly, Bharat had also developed a range that could create the illusion of stone - Malad Stone and Agra Stone.

An advertisment of colourex work at metro cinema.

Bharat’s inhouse Artist Department was open at all times for consultation. The latest European modernistic designs were handled by an able German designer, while Oriental designs were handled by an Indian artist. To encourage popularity, the company provided estimates of stucco and colored plaster work without any obligation to purchase.

Colourex cement pavillion at the Fourth Indian Industries Fair, held in Bombay. BFT Archives, Mumbai.

Diversity of colours was accompanied by an equal diversity of applications. Building further on its decorative abilities it was used for gate posts, pergolas, columns, outdoor furniture, cornices and kerb stones, swimming and paddling pools and pavements. At the Laxmi Insurance Building on P D’Mello Rd., Colorex can still be seen on bandings on the facade and brightening up staircases eight decades later.

It was a winning product, as sensible as it was beautiful. The Western India building, designed by Master, Sathe and Bhuta in 1938, used Bharat’s mosaic tiles and marble extensively on upper floors, showrooms and staircases, but the face of the elevation had been dressed up by Colourex.

Bombay Mutual Building, Mumbai, 1935. BFT Archives, Mumbai.

Coloured cement plasters became popular in new buildings that came up in Juhu and Dadar. The diversity of the material and Bharat’s creative abilities were seen in the impressive repertoire of Colourex projects in the city. The seaside Setalvad bungalow in Juhu was done in Cream Colourex and lined with brilliant Terracotta Red. On a much larger scale, the Metro Cinema was done up by Bharat in Agra Stone and Cream Yellow Colourex. Colourex would also be used in buildings on the Backbay Reclamation, like the Swastik Court to create avian motifs right above its entrance. The Industrial and Prudential Insurance Building was given a look similar to Malad Stone by the expert hands of masons working with Colourex.

A relief made of Colourex at Swastik Court Building in Oval Maidan. BFT Archives, Mumbai.

Bombay’s Colourex Buildings
East India Cotton Exchange, 1925, Kalbadevi
Indian Merchants’ Chamber, 1935, Churchgate
Havero Company, 1930s, Ballard Estate
The cornice at the terrace level of RBI Head office,1939, Dr. Annie Besant Rd.
Ritz Hotel, 1940, Marine Drive
St. James Court, 1940, Marine Drive
People’s Building, 1941, Fort

Colourex Catalogue, BFT Archives, Mumbai.
Western India House. BFT Archives, Mumbai.