Many faces of cinema stills

Aramugam's Rajnikant

Aramugam's Rajnikant  

Illusion, make-belief, magic, the whirring of the projector and lights, camera, action.

Ever since the first flickering images of Lumiere Brothers "The Train'' which both shocked and fascinated audiences across the world in early 18th Century, cinema has continued to move, enthrall, entertain and inspire audiences. It has come a long way since then and is now a mature art form.

Cinema Still -- an exhibition curated by Gayarti Sihna captures the universality of cinema and its profound effect on our lives. "Cinema works at different levels. I have tried to bring different media. It is all about images. It speaks our language. People recognise stills from `Sholay' or `Star Wars' and these artist builds on them,'' says Gayarti.

Whether Bollywood or world cinema, the moving image has transformed the way we see life. Stylised or realistic mixed media, oils, photographs, or in video, inspired by nostalgia or by anger at violence in cinema, these artists have expressed how cinema has touched their life.

The bright hued canvases of Rekha Rodwittiya titled Nayika are center on the role of women in cinema. A silk screen impression of a heroine from yesteryear sitting in a languid pose declaring her self-awareness is juxtaposed with the modern. "Parallel cinema was very significant for me. I was young with a formative mind at the time and defining my own feminist inquires,'' says Rekha.

Besides, well known names such as Dayanita Singh, Nalini Malini, Aparna Caur, Mukesh Paripaini, it also has paintings of a hoarding-painter -- Aramugam's iconic images of the super-hero Rajnikant. Faceless and unknown Aramugam's livelihood depends on painting film stars. Being unable to survive the onslaught of digital printing, his art is slowly being phased out.

``The future is bleak. Politicians no longer use huge cut outs,'' he says, a comment on the larger than life quality of cinema.

Aparna Caur's `Pyar Hua'.

Aparna Caur's `Pyar Hua'.  

From Dayanita Singh's black and white images of Saroj Khan -- the queen of dance-sequences teaching actresses how to be graceful -- to the pictures of aging stars by Samar and Vijay Jodha capturing the changing world of India elderly, it portrays different dimensions of the movies.

The endless struggle between good and evil symbolised by the socially accepted hero and the vile villian, trying to make sense of the stereotypes perpetuated by cinema or the cowboy still which criticize Bush's attitude to Afghanistan, each picture is layered with multiplicity, a frame within a frame.

This exhibition which ends on March 30 at the Visual Arts Gallery at the India Habitat Centre promises a fresh look at the medium, making it worth a visit.

By Mandira Nayar

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