As the epicenter of Indian cinema and the birthplace of Bollywood, Mumbai is now home to the recently-opened National Museum of Indian Cinema (NMIC). which invites guests on an enlightening journey through India’s illustrious filmmaking history. Visit one of the city’s classic cinema halls —-Regal, New Excelsior, Sterling, and Metro Cinema— which continue to entertain cinephiles, then check out the museum, the first of its kind in India.
Indian Cinema History
Known for its Hindi film industry, which is internationally identified as ‘Bollywood’, Mumbai is the center of Indian filmmaking, and Bollywood is the world’s largest film industry, releasing about 2,000 movies per year.
In 1896, it was in Mumbai that cinema was introduced to Indian audiences by a touring representative of the Lumière Brothers of France, the inventors of cinematography. Not long after the visit, H S Bhatvadekar filmed a mathematician getting off at Apollo Bunder, Mumbai, thus becoming the first Indian to make a moving picture.
When Dada Saheb Phalke, the founding father of Indian cinema, produced a silent movie Raja Harishchandra in 1913, its smashing success paved the way for Indian filmmakers.
One of the largest successes of Bollywood was Alam Ara (1931), a sound movie that was basis for the convivial modern Bollywood musical that we love and admire today. During the 1940s and 1960s, when epic productions such as Mother India (1957) were released, India solidified its standing in the art form and its filmmakers as major players in Bollywood and beyond.
Today, Indian films have their own unique style and compete globally at the box office and the National Museum of Indian Cinema celebrates not just Bollywood but the many films made in the various regions and languages across India.
What’s in a Museum?
Recognizing the rich artistic and cultural heritage value of Indian cinema, the Government of India established National Museum of Indian Cinema (NMIC) in 2019.
For visitors and Indians, it’s the jewel of Mumbai’s cultural crown. Nested in the Films Division complex at Pedder Road in South Mumbai, the museum showcases the journey of Indian cinema from its primitive form up to its current hi-tech profile.
Of the two buildings that house NMIC, one is a fully-restored 19th-century heritage property called Gulshan Mahal, while the other is a state-of-the-art glass structure proudly showcasing the history and facts of Indian cinema, past and present.
Visitors are encouraged to enter the Gulshan Mahal building first to experience 100 years of Indian cinema via documents, posters, models and dioramas, multimedia kiosks and vintage equipment film that make you appreciate the struggles of pioneering Indian film makers.
Step into the modern building and the very first thing you’ll see is a a full-size wax replica of legendary Indian filmmaker Mr. Satyajit Ray. The idol looks so real, you get the impression he himself is welcoming you to explore his world at the museum, including an area dedicated to the well-rounded Ray, who was recognized with an Honorary Award at the 64th annual Academy Awards in 1992 for his artistic storytelling and contribution to filmmaking and cinema.
A stand out at NMIC is an exhibit that merges cinema with the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Enjoy snippets of films on the ‘Mahatma’ and old nationalism movies, which were instrumental in fueling the Indian Freedom Movement during the colonial occupation.
The museum is open everyday but Monday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cinema was part of my life growing up in Mumbai, and after visiting the museum, I understand that the process of filmmaking is like an ocean in which various art currents collide —literature, photography, set design, editing, sound, and acting— and project to the screen the human experience and emotion as seen through the eyes of the filmmaker.
India’s Satyajit Ray summed it up best when he said, “The raw material of cinema is life itself”.
A trip to NMIC brings this to light.
BeSeeingYou In: Mumbai
Good to know: The name Bollywood is a blend of two words: Bombay and Hollywood
WOW! Factor: Bollywood is the largest film industry in the world by number of film productions
Tip: Plan to give yourself three hours, at least, in the museum
Where to stay: The legendary five-star Taj Mahal Palace has played host to royalty, dignitaries and cinema stars from across the globe.
Author bio: Shraddha. C. Sankulkar