Where Bappida met Phantom Lady

May 19, 2012, 05:56 IST | Soma Das

This weekend, head to Cinema City to step into a world of quirky installations, seminars and film screenings that salute the myriad frames in which cinema influences life in Mumbai

Like some Hindi films, Cinema City has been in the making for four years. During this time, nearly 100 people have been working on the project, including visual artists, architects, filmmakers and urban scholars. Now, the stage is set at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) to showcase the 13 installations and 10 documentary films that were produced as part of this inter-disciplinary research, which is also a tribute to 100 years of Indian cinema.

The Calendar Project pays tribute to contemporary images that have become iconic in public culture. It includes 56 calendars, each representing a year in the 20th century. 

No cliches, please

Moving away from clichéd images of Bollywood and the city, the exhibition showcases lesser-known figures that keep the movie industry running, such as the dressmakers, stuntmen and stud farm owners. With quirky, interactive exhibits, and games, the audience is in for an

Cinema City is an initiative of Majlis (a centre for rights discourse and inter-disciplinary arts), in collaboration with the Kamala Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture (KRVIA). The show has been curated by Madhusree Dutta, filmmaker and executive director at Majlis along with visual artist Archana Hande, Professor Rajeev Lochan, director, NGMA and architect Rohan Shivkumar, deputy director at KRVIA.

Return of Phantom Lady by Pushpamala N is a sequel to The Phantom Lady or Kismet (1996-98), a black-and-white noir thriller. In this acid colour-infused version, set in contemporary Mumbai, she must tackle the land mafia. The challenges varied from scouting locations (Parel’s Bharatmata cinema and a ’70s drive-in theatre at Bandra Kurla Complex) to casting actors (artist Atul Dodiya is the villain).

Behind the cloak of invisibility

Explaining the idea behind Cinema City, Dutta says, “While researching for my film, I met a stuntwoman named Reshma who has acted as a stunt double for Hema Malini in Sholay. She made a pertinent comment, which lingered: ‘We get Rs 2,000 per day to hide our faces and Rs 1,000 to expose them’. It’s a humbling fact that she gets paid more to be invisible; the minute she plays herself she is just a junior artiste. That’s where the idea emerged — to showcase cinema and Mumbai, the city that produces it. In the process, cinema influences fashion, language and migration patterns. But there are people who make movies but never come under the spotlight; like dancers or animal

Dutta then approached people from different fields to add perspective to this media project.

She observes that while movies and Mumbai might be synonymous, the city is often recognised through its movies and people negotiate their way through Mumbai based on what they soak in from films. The filmmaker admits she was fascinated by the parallel world around Bollywood. “There is a Bollywood directory, a sort of Yellow Pages associated with cinema — it lists astrologers, numerologists and props
suppliers, who are associated with the movie business.

Atul Dodiya’s artwork juxtaposes station signs with iconic film villains

What to expect

The brief that Dutta gave the collaborators was to archive contemporary cinema and focus on what goes on behind the scenes. The line-up of artists that have worked on the project includes veterans such as Atul Dodiya, Sudhir Patwardhan and Pushpamala N alongside newcomers. The selection of artists was dependent on their familiarity with pop culture.

After the Mumbai showcase, Cinema City will move on to Delhi and Bangalore.

The Guide Picks: Big Shots

> Fourteen Station CST Painting by Atul Dodiya features station signboards along the Central Railway line with portraits of popular 1950s-70s Bollywood villains like Gabbar Singh.

>Video installation on the Sweatshops of Cinema that traces the network of production units such as dressmakers, light rentals and rain-making services.

>Filmmaker Paromita Vohra’s sound installation So Near Yet So Far revolves around three public telephones and the fantasy culture that allows one to be something else, somewhere else.

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