ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Mumbai's Most Adored Public Institution

dates.sites: Project Cinema City: Bombay/Mumbai, Concept and Text by Madhusree Dutta, Design and Graphics by Shilpa Gupta and Madhusree Dutta (New Delhi: Tulika Books), 2012; pp 238, Rs 995.

Dates.sites: Project Cinema City: Bombay/Mumbai, in the words of its authors, is a graphic “timeline of the city of Bombay/Mumbai in the 20th Century, anchored to its most adored public institution-cinema”. A useful compendium of facts, dates and significant moments compiled and designed by Madhusree Dutta and Shilpa Gupta, the book emerges out of Cinema City, a collaborative arts and archival project involving artists, architects, film-makers, commentators, cityphiles and cinephiles. As Dutta describes in the introduction the “parental project” is one of “collating, reading, manufacturing, archiving, recycling, the realms of art making, documentary practices and discursive exercises.” Comprising an exhibition of multidisciplinary artworks, commissioned films and this book, the project commemorates 100 years of cinema since Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra (1913).

First hosted in Bombay the city of its origins, the Project Cinema City exhibition curated by Dutta and Archana Hande is a lively display of installations, photographs, paintings, sculpture and memorabilia that celebrate and chronicle the city of Bombay and the cinema that originated there. As Dutta writes: “They are the twin products of the 20th century, reared and developed through its wars, migrant peoples and moving goods and technologies of reproduction.” At the time of writing, the exhibition has travelled through different cities and has been widely viewed and discussed. I first saw the exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Bombay and was so riveted by what it had to offer that I went back the next day and enjoyed the experience just as much. When I saw it again at the NGMA in Delhi, the space in which the artworks were displayed had changed and so had the energy and sensorium around them. Artworks I had paid lesser attention to in Bombay had suddenly acquired a new life in Delhi. When artworks travel through multiple sites they are transfigured in time and space. What animates our “revistitation” to the same exhibition in a different location, among other things, is the discovery of the “new” amidst that which is familiar. In our revisits to the cinema and the city, it is the unpredictable frisson between the familiar and the unfamiliar that carries the exhilaration of new insights.

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