To commemorate 100 years of Indian cinema, the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) here is hosting a month-long exhibition titled “Project Cinema City: Research Art and Documentary Practices” which was inaugurated in New Delhi on Friday.

The project is a culmination of hard work by six dozen film-makers, visual artists, sound artists and architects who laboured for four long years. Through colourful paintings and photo art, sound installations, architectural installations and short films, the project seeks to enquire into the interfaces between the city of Mumbai and cinema. It excavates all the indelible marks that cinema has left on the city.

Speaking on the occasion, seasoned Bollywood lyricist/poet Javed Akhtar, who made it to the event despite being indisposed for the past few days, regretted the fact that films were being made for the creamy layer of society and not catering to the common man. “Cinema should entertain and engross you. The difference between cinema and circus is that it makes you think. It records contemporary aspirations, failures and desires. Cinema is common man’s historian. When I watch films of 1950s I can appreciate the language and moral values of that particular era. Our cinema has to be protected. Luckily the negatives of Pather Panchali and Apur Sansar were saved by a private party.”

Pointing out that Mumbai was the third most expensive city for real estate developers, Mr. Akhtar said it was more profitable for a proprietor of a cinema hall to open another business. “This is the reason why Mumbai was losing its grand single theatre cinema halls one after the other. But when a cinema hall closes down, then another multiplex with four theatres comes in its place. But it will cater only to the privileged class of society which does not want to watch Dharavi. So our films are made for the privileged class. A prominent director once confided in me that he was not interested in doing business in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar; only the multiplex and diaspora mattered to him. So in a way he was saying that 75 per cent of our population does not matter to him. So our films are being made for only a particular class and do not cater to the lowest common denominator.”

Cinema-Mumbai are twins

Describing cinema as a powerful and encompassing media, NGMA Director Rajeev Lochan said the project highlights the transformation in cinema viewing and cinema production through 100 years in the city of Mumbai. “It is also evident how the city in its umpteen ways has contributed to the growth of this unique art form. I am most gratified in being able to showcase this exhibition which saw the collaboration of nearly 60 visual artists, film-makers, sound artists and architects to execute works of art in their individualistic and collaborative capacities.”

The project seeks to highlight that cinema and Mumbai are twins. They have not only grown together through the 20 Century but intertwined into each other’s processes and development. From sprawling studios to small workshops, from aspiring actors to body doubles and from a city of opulence to shanty towns, Mumbai has many different facets. All these contribute to enrich Hindi cinema.

Others who addressed the gathering included Union Culture Ministry Secretary Sangita Gairola and Madhurshree Dutta.

The exhibition got a favourable response at NGMA Mumbai. After it draws to a close at NGMA in Delhi on September 23 it will be exhibited at NGMA Bangalore.