A Cinematic Imagination: Josef Wirschind and the Bombay Talkies

Kishore Sahu. Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, 1960. Courtesy of CPB

First displayed at Serendipity Arts Festival in 2017, this exhibition showcases a sampling of rare, original photographs and digital reprints from the esteemed Wirsching Archive, of early Indian cinema relating to the Bombay Talkies.

The exhibition, a tribute to one of the forgotten pioneers, German cinematographer, Josef Wirsching, comprises behind-the-scenes photographs of cast and crew, production stills, and publicity images. These photographs, shot primarily on 35mm with a Leica camera between the 1920s-60s, give us unprecedented access to the aesthetic decisions, creative communities, and cross-cultural exchanges that were vital to filmmaking in late colonial India. The acclaimed production studio, Bombay Talkies, played a major role in defining the form of mainstream film in India, established by Himanshu Rai in 1934.

Presented by Serendipity Arts Foundation, Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan and the CPB Foundation, this exhibition foregrounds the critical role of German filmmakers and technicians and interwar image-making practices in the history of Indian cinema, presenting some of the best-known actors and technicians from Devika Rani, Ashok Kumar and Leela Chitnis to Jairaj, Hansa Wadkar and Dilip Kumar.

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