Cinema India: The Art of Bollywood
26 June - 6 October 2002
Film hoarding by Balkrihn Arts, oil on canvas, India, 2002, Museum no. IS.115-2002
Featuring works from pre-independent India to the present day, this exhibition charted the historical, political and cultural changes experienced by the country, as seen through the eyes of the Indian film industry.
The exhibition brought together some of the most remarkable examples of Indian cinema art, from large-scale hoardings and posters to photo cards, booklets and original film trailers. Posters from many classic films were represented: the Oscar nominated epic 'Mother India', 'Sholay' (with its distinctive and influential typography) and recent blockbusters such as 'Lagaan' and 'K3G'.
The extraordinary talent of the hoarding artist was highlighted, with artists from India specially commissioned to demonstrate their unique art. Three works were hand-painted on site at the V&A, providing a rare opportunity to see this fascinating technique first-hand.
The exhibition also displayed the work of contemporary artists who have commented on or have been influenced by Bollywood and its imagery, including Catherine Yass, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew and Adam Bartos.
Film hoarding for 'Mughal-E'Azam' by Balkrihn Arts, oil on canvas, India, about 2002, Museum no. IS.112-2002
'City for Sale' by Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, oil on canvas, Baroda, Gujarat, India, 1980-84, Museum no. IS.15-1986
Leading Cinema India film stars
Nicknamed 'Big B', Bachchan is the undisputed superstar of India popular cinema. Since entering the business in the late 1960s, he has made more than 70 films, many of which have become classics of the India cinema such as 'Sholay' and 'Deewaar'. His portrayal of the angry young man struggling in Indian society, struck a chord in the turbulent political times of the 1970s.
He left acting to go into politics in the 1980s but returned to movie-making, producing and narrating films soon after. He is devoted to making Indian movies and culture prominent throughout the world and has founded an entertainment company in order to use his status to help that cause.
Kumar fell into acting in the 1930s and went on to have an incredibly successful career. His initial appeal as the good guy changed with the release of 'Kismet' in 1943 in which he portrayed a cigarette smoking anti-hero. The film went on to be the biggest commercial success of the time.
Kumar was also a noteworthy producer with Bombay talkies as well as with Filmistan Studios which he helped set up in 1943. He continued to act through the 1990s and also spent time teaching acting before his death in 2001. His essence lives on in Indian popular culture, as suggested by his nickname, 'Dadamoni', meaning the grand old man of Hindi film.
Dilip Kumar in Shaheed, 1948
Along with Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar was one of the India film industry's brightest stars of the 1950s and 1960s, gaining fame for roles in 'Andaz', 'Devdas' and 'Mughal-e-Azam', amongst others.
Praised for his natural manner on screen, Kumar excelled at showing anguish and defeat and was crowned 'The King of Tragedy.' His roles as the love struck loner drew upon the social climate of post-independence India and remain an inspiration for contemporary actors.
Although his career has slowed down considerably, Kumar remains in the public eye. In 1982 he starred alongside current Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan in the critically acclaimed 'Shakti', proving his star qualities.
Best known for films such as 'Baazi', 'Jaal' and 'Guide', Dev Anand perfected the role of the degenerate city dweller with enough charm to win over the girl as well as the audience. And with comparisons to American movie stars like Cary Grant and Gary Cooper, one can see that Anand was one of the most popular performers of his time. He also started a film production company, Navketan, in 1949 which went on to make some of the biggest films of the 1950s.
Rehman gained fame starring in many of director Guru Dutt's most acclaimed films including 'Pyaasa' and 'Kaagaz Ke Phool'. Her beauty and dancer's grace had mass appeal and her most famous role was in 'Guide' made in 1965 for which she won a Best Actress Filmfare Award. She continues to act in movies today starring alongside Bollywood stars like Amitabh Bachchan.
Nargis was introduced to Indian cinema at the age of five as Baby Rani. She began her adult career when she was fourteen in 'Taqdeer'. As romantic counterpart to actor Raj Kapoor, the two earned much adoration and fame for films like 'Barsaat' and 'Andaz'. Their intense passion on screen spread to their personal lives but ended when Kapoor refused to marry and have children with her. Her greatest role was in 'Mother India' in which she met Sunil Dutt whom she later married. After their marriage she disappeared from acting, focusing instead on producing films and devoting her time to social causes. She died in 1981.
Raj Kapoor in 'Aag', 1948
A devout cinema fan himself, Raj Kapoor was consumed by his acting and directing projects throughout his career. He rose to fame in films like 'Shri' 420 and 'Awara' starring alongside his leading lady, Nargis. The characters he portrayed often displayed a charming simplicity and innocence, and many of the films he directed and starred in had autobiographical elements in them. He and his films were hugely popular outside India, particularly in Russia.
Kumari began acting at the age of six in 'Leatherface' and found success as a child star known as Baby Meena. Later she was renamed Meena Kumari and began to appear in comedies. However she found fame portraying innocent lovestruck women who go through much suffering in films like 'Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam'. This element of misfortune was paralleled in her own life in which she fell into alcoholism and endured a difficult marriage to Kamal Amrohi who had directed her in many of her most popular roles. After a long term separation the two were reunited to film 'Pakeezah' and Kumari died shortly after the release of the film.