BOLLYWOOD CINEMA Showcards – ROM’s Rare Collection
Indian film has a unique beauty and history. The velvet – draped doors of the Royal Ontario Museum ICC exhibit hall open to revel a space bathed in the colors of Bollywood glamour. Rich fuscia’s, reds, oranges, crystal chandeliers and the sounds of Bollywood cinema surround you and invite you into Indian Film Art. Each Cinema Showcard has been carefully selected and tells a story of the movie, the actors, and the eras spanning from the early days of Bollywood Cinema in the 1950’s (just after India’s independence) to the late 1980’s.
How did such a remarkable collection of Indian Bollywood Cinema Art come to be showcased at the ROM? The story itself is fascinating and begins with a young Indian boy star struck by Indian cinema, whose life long passion for cinema inspired him to collect the Cinema Showcards. Years later, a young women in British Columbia fell in love with a piece of art given to her by her husband. The piece of art was an Indian Cinema Showcard and it inspired a journey that would span the globe. It took her to Mumbai’s dusty Chor Bazaar, and eventually back to San Francisco where a chance encounter introduced the young woman Angela Hartwick, to ROM curator and Indian art specialist Deepali Dewan. Serendipitously the timing was right both politically and creatively.
The young Indian boy, who many years ago fell in love with Bollywood Cinema, started to collect the Cinema Showcards secretively, after they had been taken out of the glass cases inside the Bombay cinemas, where they had ignited the fancies of moviegoers. His collection grew over the years. When Angela Hartwick met Deepali Dewaan, she had managed to track down over 200 of these precious works of art between 2006 and 2010. In the 1990’s India experienced an economic liberalization and a globalization of Bollywood. South Asian culture began to have a growing fascination for Europe and North America fueled by a growing number of Indian diaspora to foreign countries. These international events combined with some pivotal films (Diwale Dulhania Le Jayenge 1995) and a growing interest in Indian art fueled by the Mumbai auction house Osian raised the value and awareness of this hitherto overlooked art.
What is a Bollywood Cinema Showcard? It is a beautiful piece of art that combines several different media. It is really a collage, which includes ‘film stills cut out and pasted on board in different compositions.’ ‘Paint is applied to tint the photographs, render the background, and connect the photographic elements.’ (ROM curator Dewan) They are very beautiful and nothing like the offset lithograph film posters published in books and part of the ROM’s own collection. ‘the fluid boundaries between photography and paint reminded me of the long history of painted photographic portraiture on the Indian subcontinent.’(Dewan)