Abu Dhabi: Bollywood has come to the UAE as Louvre Abu Dhabi unveils its latest art exhibition on the history of Indian cinema.
According to reports, India has one of the largest film industries in the world, releasing more than 1,500 films of various genres in 20 languages every year.
Running until June 4, “Bollywood Superstars” will feature paintings, photographs, clothing, tapestries and photographic objects. A large number of objects on display are on loan from the Musee du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris, which specializes in vernacular art.
Indian cinema developed in the 20th century, but as the exhibition demonstrates, narrative and the moving image predate the modern age. In part, the country’s vibrant visual culture, folk performing arts, shadow puppetry, ancient epics and mythology – dating back 2,000 years – led to the birth of Bollywood. Some of the displayed objects represent the celebration and revival of religious and cultural figures and heroes.
In the early days, traveling storytellers roamed the lands, telling scenes from important epics. A mid-20th-century wooden altar is on display, resembling a toy box, with detailed panels featuring characters and scenes from the war-themed “Ramayana” epic. It almost looks like a contemporary movie set, with action, costumes and staging all in play.
Other objects revealed the deities, leading them out of the temple and closer to the worshipers. There is a colorful wooden telescope on which the light and shadow of the god are projected. “Like a music box, a hand crank slides the image for viewers to see through a small peephole,” reads a label next to the device.
Cinema was introduced to India in 1896 through the French revolutionaries Lumière brothers who invented the photographic equipment. As the years passed, filmmaking became a weapon against colonial rule and a statement of identity. Pioneering modern directors, such as the late Dadasaheb Phalke (known as the “Father of Indian Cinema”), took inspiration from their own literature and culture, which manifested in their creations.
The exhibition concludes with a presentation of popular Hindi films today, witnessing a boom since the 1970s, with Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan ) rise. Both ancient and modern, “Bollywood superstars” serve as reminders of the need for storytelling.