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Of Motion Pictures and Museums

With a predominant connection to cinema and cinema-making, Mumbai finally got its first monument dedicated to the art and history of cinema in January 2019. A museum called ‘The National Museum of Indian Cinema’ (NMIC) was inaugurated to celebrate and cherish the memories of the Indian Cinema and to give its legendary stars a galaxy of their own.

The NMIC is located at the Films Division in Pedder Road, Mumbai, with two buildings named Gulshan Mahal and the New Museum building. While one exhibits the golden history of Indian Cinema along with the prized artifacts associated with certain iconic cinemas, the other one showcases more technical aspects of the history behind the pre-production, production, and post-production processes through the years.

“The widely applauded cinema by Dadasaheb Phalke Raja Harishchandra Factory or the first cinema in India, Shree Pundallik by Dadasaheb Torne, will no longer be frozen in history, but rejoice as glorious tribute through this museum,” says Pratik Deshmukh, 29, an actor who straddles both Hindi and Marathi Cinema.

Indian Cinemas’ diversity is as rich as the diversity of India. Ranging from Hindi to Marathi to Telugu, Indian cinema consists of movies from different cinema industries, such as Bollywood, Tollywood, or the Marathi cinema industry, that have a rich cultural and regional dominance.

From silent to black and white to digitally produced, the relationship between Indian cinema and Bombay (now Mumbai) remains as golden as ever. From Dadasaheb Torne to Ardeshir Irani to Satyajit Ray, many such legendary contributors have been a part of this illustrious industry of Indian Cinema.

This museum is a proud collection and an exhibit of the eternal memories of these

artists and their work and has become a part of the intrinsic ingenuity of Bombay.

The archives of the Films Division of India have contributed immensely towards the establishment of the museum. These archives of the NMIC are available for learners and contributors with special permission. The archives provide a comprehensive understanding of cinema, its connection with India, and the storyline of cinema's history, production, and growth over centuries.

The inception of the idea of the NMIC came after the iconic ‘Gulshan Mahal’ building was given a Grade II heritage status by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), according to Sanjay Sahare, the guide-in-charge. Sahare adds, “Gulshan Mahal, an elegant 19th Century structure, was best known for the qawwalis, cultural gatherings, film shootings through the 1920s until the early 2000s, which stood as a damaged structure till now.

The Government of India (GoI) and the Films division decided to restore the building to its original glory by converting it into a national museum this year.”

Keeping in mind that there would be students, filmmakers, budding cinematographers, and a large number of admirers of Indian Cinema, GoI, and the Films division divided the Museum into nine sections. The nine sections range from the origin of cinema, the advent of sound in films, to the booming ‘Studio Era,’ regional cinema, and the modern wave of cinema in India, according to Sahare. He says, “Indian cinema has its roots attached in Bombay, with the many first film studios opened to the many celebrities that have got their ‘big break,’ Bombay has been a common chapter.”

Pallavi Patil, 30, a Marathi film industry actor, says, “Indian cinema is like a crown jewel of Bombay; Bombay has become quite synonymous with Indian cinema”. She adds, “The museum helps act as a patron for the Indian cinema. I feel that Bombay's strong connection with Indian cinema will cherish and grow further with the advent of this museum. Plus, it is the best place for the newer generations to know more about the art and culture of Indian cinema and for them to witness how Indian cinema has transcended.”

To promote the heritage of Indian cinema, guided tours along with short films are shown in the auditorium of the New Museum every Friday. Entry to the museum is free for students and children as they are the target audience; apart from that, adults have to pay a fee of ₹ 20. The funding for the repairs and renovation is done by the GoI along with some private investors.

Deshmukh shares his experience while working at the Film City. He says, “The walking tours dedicated to Bollywood were conducted in the entire vicinity of the film city, but they are the least educational and dependable tours on the information they provide on the Hindi-film industry; the museum as an entity will prove to help fill this gap.” He adds, “This museum caters to not just the tourists but would help localities grow their understanding of the Indian cinema.”

The artifacts and instruments on display at NMIC hold great value and responsibility as heritage symbols and pieces. Sahare shares that some artifacts or instruments were taken from the archives of the Films division while others were given to the Films division as gifts or donations from all over the world. Sahare says, “A special aspect of this museum is that nearly 30% of artifacts or instruments displayed here have been gifted or donated to us in their original condition from all over the world.” He says, “We have become like the treasure storers or custodians of these priceless instruments and artifacts.”

NMIC is an added icon to Mumbai because it is a first-of-its-kind monument dedicated to the hard work of the various artists who have produced and contributed to iconic and legendary films in the history of Indian cinema. The ‘City of Dreams’ gives us a galaxy dedicated to the glorious memories of cinema icons and displays these stars through the spaces of the NMIC.

Published: December 2019

National Museum of India Cinema (Mumbai, India)
Inside the National Museum for Indian Cinema in Mumbai, IN

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