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CINEPOP: Bollywood Photo Culture

Amassed from the streets of Bombay, this growing array of images from the collection of Rahaab Allana highlights movie stills and associated memorabilia that advertised and popularised actors and epic sequences from the original film. Dated largely between the 1950s and 80s, this selection of analogue photographs comprises an essential subculture of photography that had mass appeal, many of which were transformed into large film posters, banners and hoardings.

Revived on occasion of the 195th anniversary of photography’s invention, it was earlier showcased during the centenary of Indian cinema in 2013 with Art Heritage. Divided into different tropes and styles manifested in a later period of Hindi cinema, an era which saw the rise of a global audience for Bollywood. Affection, action, caricature and villainy present some of the recurring moments/sentiments/predilections that were captured through film photography. These stills, which also travelled as lobby cards and show cards that were pinned up in foyers of cinema theatres, present some of the most unacknowledged forms of photography in the history of the medium. This exhibition features photographs from studios such as Studio Nataraj, Himalaya Talkie Distributors and Pravinchandra G. Javeri, most of which are in Bombay (present day Mumbai). They present prominent actors such as Madhubala, Ashok Kumar, Nargis, Dev Anand, Pran, Mumtaz, Mehboob, Johnny Walker, Om Prakash, Randhir Kapoor, Dharmendra, Helen and Rekha among several others.

The last section presents the dominant persona of public actors, moving well beyond the hysteria of the silver screen. Here they come to be visualized as citizens of the world, part of our social fabric rather than rising above it.


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