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Home > Mumbai Guide News > Things To Do News > Article > This talk in Mumbai dives into the citys film industry through its first studio Bombay Talkies

This talk in Mumbai dives into the city's film industry through its first studio, Bombay Talkies

Updated on: 07 March,2024 09:14 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Shriram Iyengar | shriram.iyengar@mid-day.com

A talk dives into the syncretic evolution of the city’s massive film industry, cosmopolitan and artistic culture through the examination of its first major studio, Bombay Talkies

This talk in Mumbai dives into the city's film industry through its first studio, Bombay Talkies

Actors Meera and Mumtaz Ali rehearse a scene from a film. Pic Courtesy/ JW Archive, The Alkazi Collection of Photography

While it has many names since its first discovery, few other terms describe the city of Mumbai as well as ‘City of Dreams’. From the bylanes of Dharavi to crowded compartments of local trains, its citizens continue to harbour dreams. The ongoing exhibition, A Cinematic Imagination: Josef Wirsching and Bombay Talkies by the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) and Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation in collaboration with The Alkazi Foundation for the Arts is an example of early dreamers. This weekend, a panel discussion will seek to examine the legacy of Wirsching’s works and the impact of Bombay Talkies on cinema, culture and the city itself.


Rahaab Allana, curator for Alkazi Foundation of the Arts says, “If you look at the material we have, and the legacy of the studio, it talks of technology and innovation at a time when filming was just beginning to take root. It is important in terms of its context; not just by what they did, but the world they were doing it in. It is a world that was on the cusp of change.”


Installation view of ‘A Cinematic Imagination: Josef Wirsching and the Bombay Talkies’. Pics Courtesy/ Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya and Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Mumbai
Installation view of ‘A Cinematic Imagination: Josef Wirsching and the Bombay Talkies’. Pics Courtesy/ Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya and Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Mumbai


Allana will moderate the conversation on the panel talk, Cinema Legacies, on Saturday with film scholars Rashmi Singh Sawhney, Ashish Rajadhyaksha, and archivist and founder of Film Heritage Foundation, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur. The conversation takes root from Wirsching’s archival collection of photographs and other material collated by the Josef Wirsching family.

Rajadhyaksha points out, “We have never had such an elaborate archive in terms of the studio itself and the production context.” Dungarpur explains, “When Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai were planning to set up, they recognised that India lacked the craftsmanship. The German insight and technology brought a fineness to the films.”

Yet, it is not just films that these works reflect. As Allana notes, “Bombay was an important mercantile port. It was at this point of time the city had its influx of photo studios on Kalbadevi Road. It was an important place where social concerns were negotiated during the Independence struggle.”

Rajadhyaksha adds, “In the interwar period between the First and Second World Wars, you see an enormous metropolitan expansion. You witness this in music, dance, theatre and films as well.” Hence, despite many of the filmmakers, from Devika Rani to Ashok Kumar, Amiya Chakravarty and S Mukherjee, hailing from Bengal, the city of Bombay became the hub of a prominent film industry. Allana notes that the period also saw the city become the centre for another mass medium — the radio. He adds, “Numerous people from behind the sets were also from the Parsi community, who were patrons of the arts in the city.”

The panel discussion will seek to dive into these details, as well as the need to preserve them. Remarking on the need to preserve our history, Allana says, “Any other place would have reconstructed the studio and drawn attention to the fact that this was the first such major studio in South East Asia. It was a place where people came together to create this imagination for the public of India.”

On: March 9; 5.30 pm
At: Coomaraswamy Hall, Max Mueller Bhavan, CSMVS, Fort.

Film picks

For the thrill
Kismet was one of the first blockbuster hits in the history of Indian cinema, and remains the earliest crime-thrillers. It is always a fantastic watch.
Shivendra Singh Dungarpur

Precursor to change
I always love watching Achhut Kanya (1936). It was one of the first films to handle the subject of untouchability, and sets the tone for ideas of women’s empowerment and representation that find formation in The Constitution of India.
Rahaab Allana

A trilogy of hits
There are many films in that period from PC Barua’s Devdas to Sant Tukaram and Duniya Na Mane at Prabhat Studios. But for Bombay Talkies, it has to be the trilogy of Kangan, Bandhan and Jhoola that cemented their style and aesthetics.
Ashish Rajadhyaksha

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