& occasionally about other things, too...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Picture House: The Art of Bollywood

MF Husain's last Bollywood poster (2010)
Bollywood has moved to Toronto. There’s more Bollywood here than in Bombay (Mumbai). With the IIFA a couple of weeks from now and the VIP tickets for Roger’s Centre being sold – so I’ve heard – for $10,000 (INR 460,000 approximately).

The Greater Toronto Area and all its towns are being overrun by Bollywood themed events that has got the Indo-Canadians all charged up. 

They’re thronging these celebrations in big numbers. As my friend George Abraham recently posted on his Facebook page, “The flavour of Canada’s summer: all things India...Smart!”

I went to the inaugural of Picture House: The Art of Bollywood an exquisite exhibition of Bollywood posters at the Art Gallery of Mississauga curated by Ali Adil Khan and Asma Arshad Mahmood.

The exhibition had some of the most famous Bollywood posters ever painted.

And the richly-produced accompanying brochure had a well-researched and article by Ali Adil Khan.

Khan writes with the authority that comes from a mastery over the subject. He lists the many billboard painters who didn’t achieve the fame that Maqbool Fida Husain was destined to achieve.

Khan concludes his essay with an insightful observation: “The journey of Bollywood billboards and posters from the street of Mumbai to the museums of the world reaffirms their historical and aesthetic importance. 

"It is the relatively unknown artists, such as those profiled in this exhibition who are the unsung heroes of Bollywood, who worked day and night behind the scene, in open air studios and small alleyways, to give a larger than life image to actors and to commence a visual culture that is widely accepted and easily understood within and outside of India.”

The exhibition transported me to the past; to my aunt’s home in Prarthana Samaj where a few dozen cousins would congregate during the summer holidays, and accompanied by my cousin, I’d go from one cinema hall to another along Lamington Road to watch the posters of new movies.

That stretch of road had nearly a dozen cinema houses – Roxy, Opera House, Imperial, Naaz, Swastik, Novelty, Super, Apsara, Minerva, Alfred, Ganga-Jamuna and Maratha Mandir.

And, if I remember right, in the mid-1970s (1976-77-78) most of these cinema halls were showing an Amitabh Bachchan movie. And nearly all of them were silver jubilee hits.

Image: http://www.mid-day.com/news/2011/jun/100611-India-theatre-community-miss-MF-Husain-posters.htm

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