India’s First National Film Museum is Now Open
The National Museum of Indian Cinema, India’s first national film museum, is now open in South Mumbai.
The museum’s collection includes film-making tools, recordings, and memorabilia, along with interactive touch screens on which viewers can watch scenes from memorable films. Visitors can learn about Raja Harishchandra (Dadasaheb Phalke, 1913), India’s first full-length feature, and listen to recordings of K.L. Saigal, who is considered the first superstar of Hindi cinema. Other activities include the opportunity to take a picture next to a statue of Bollywood star Raj Kapoor, and to view hand-painted movie posters.
There are films made in various regions and languages across India, and although the Hindi language film industry, Bollywood, is based in Mumbai, the museum does not just focus on Bollywood.
"Films are made in about 25 different regional languages in India and all are included here so that the entire country, irrespective of which part you come from, can enjoy this museum," said Prashant Pathrabe, Director General of the Indian government’s film department.
The museum’s contents also stretch beyond just Indian cinema. The idea for the government-funded museum was first discussed in 2006. It was supposed to open in 2014, when the exhibition rooms in the 6,000 square foot building were declared ready. Yet, the government decided to build a wing which explored how Mahatma Gandhi influenced cinema and its makers around the world, including Charlie Chaplin, which delayed the opening.
The museum also touches on other aspects of international cinema. It has replicas of the Praxinoscope, a spinning animation device in the shape of a cylinder which was created in France in the nineteenth century, and the Mutoscope, which was a camera used by the Lumiere brothers.
Still, some gaps exist in the museum, as artifacts have been damaged over the years and early Indian films were not preserved. One example of this gap is the absence of a print of Alam Ara (Ardeshir Irani, 1931), India’s first film with synchronized dialogue. The last print was destroyed in a fire in 2003.
Despite these shortcomings, Pathrabe sees the museum as “an education in cinema,” one that takes its visitors through India’s silent period, to ‘talkies,’ through the studio era, and into the new wave.
Today, India produces 1,500 movies a year, which is more than what Hollywood produces.