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  • Writer's pictureAbigail Mathias

A short story of Indian Cinema - an enchanting exhibition in the capital.

Organised at Louvre Abu Dhabi in partnership with Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac and France Muséums, the Bollywood Superstars exhibition will run from 24 January to 4 June 2023

The Louvre, Abu Dhabi has always been a place that I've wanted to visit, ever since it opened in the country five years ago. My visit did not dissapoint as the vast, welcoming interiors of this amazing structure was opened for a special media preview -- the launch of its newest exhibition. H.E. Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Louvre Abu Dhabi, inaugurated the museum’s first exhibition of the year, Bollywood Superstars: A Short Story of Indian Cinema, opening from 24 January and running until 4 June 2023. Organised in partnership with Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac and France Muséums, the exhibition showcases the depth and richness of the Indian sub-continent’s art and civilisation through its long tradition of image making, and the diversity of the Indian filmmaking industry.

Co-curated by Julien Rousseau, Curator and Head of the Asian Collections at Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, and Hélène Kessous, PhD in Social Anthropology and Ethnology, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, with the support of Dr. Souraya Noujaim, Director of Scientific, Curatorial and Collections Management at Louvre Abu Dhabi. The exhibition takes you on a 'masala'-filled journey where Indian cinema is celebrated in all their pomp and grandeur.

The exhibition’s curators, Julien Rousseau and Hélène Kessous, said: “This exhibition is a tribute to Bollywood and can be enjoyed by both Indian cinema fans and the wider public. We hope that it portrays the full richness of Asian traditions and tells the stories that led to the birth of this cinema. The exhibition celebrates Bollywood superstars who are adored by their fans in India in a way that is rarely seen elsewhere in the world.”

Speaking shortly before the opening, Kessous talked about being aware of the enormity of her subject. The exhibition is divided in to three parts and is aimed at educating and entertaining audiences. There is even a 'movie stage' section where visitors are encouraged to shake a leg and watch how they may been involved in dance sequences.

As the world’s leading film producer, India currently produces more than 1,500 films a year in about 20 languages, which are then exported throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Indian pioneers utilised nascent image technologies such as lithograph and photography, kickstarting the journey from the birth of the first films to grand musical features. Visitors will gain a deeper understanding of the international success of Bollywood and an appreciation of the diversity of Indian cinematography. The comprehensive displays span the history of Indian cinema from storytelling, dance, and pre-cinema to the influence of religion and mythology and the rise of Bollywood superstars.

Dr. Souraya Noujaim, Director of Scientific, Curatorial and Collections Management at Louvre Abu Dhabi said: "Bollywood is more than just a film industry; it's a cultural phenomenon that has captivated audiences around the world. This exhibition offers a unique glimpse into the long and wondrous history and development of Bollywood and the Indian cinema, and underlines the continued presence of the great mythological and literary narratives in Indian culture. Bollywood Superstars is a special exhibition that complements our collections and aligns with our curatorial approach and we hope that it provides our visitors with a better understanding of our shared roots, common values and cultural connections.”

Through more than 80 artworks including photographs, textiles, graphic arts, costumes and over 30 film extracts, the exhibition explores the rich history of the Indian cinema from its beginnings in the late 19th century up to the present. The artworks come from the collections of Louvre Abu Dhabi, Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Musée de l’Armée, Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet, al-Sabah Collection, Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation and Priya Paul Collection.

Inspired by Bollywood Superstars exhibition, a rich cultural programme will be available to the public including an in-depth talk led by the exhibition’s curators on 24 January 2023, along with the screening of six iconic Bollywood films throughout March. The famous Secret Soirée event will return with a new larger scale edition, Secret Soirée: Mumbai Nights 2, allowing guests to immerse themselves in the world of Bollywood.

A range of educational activities will be available for visitors of all ages. Bollywood Superstars is supported by PureHealth, as Louvre Abu Dhabi’s exhibition season partner. Following its display at Louvre Abu Dhabi, the exhibition will be reinterpreted by Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris, offering new audiences the opportunity to explore this immersive experience. More than 150 objects and over 40 film extracts will be on view at Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac from 26 September 2023 to 7 January 2024. A recorded podcast by the curators of the exhibition will be available for the public on the museum's website and mobile application. If you visit, share your thoughts with me.

Louvre Abu Dhabi’s operating hours:

Museum: Open: 10 am – 6.30 pm (Tue - Thurs); extended hours: 10 am – 8.30 pm (Fri - Sun); closed on Mondays.

Dome: Open: 10 am – midnight (Tues - Sun) - last entry 11 pm; closed on Mondays.

Outer part of the exhibition with the Louvre's signature dome

Calendars of yesteryear

The golden age of cinema in India

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