‘A FILM MUSEUM SHOULD LET YOU STEP INTO A MOVIE FROM THE 1920S OR ’40S. IT SHOULD BE AS INTERACTIVE AS POSSIBLE’
heirlooms. They don’t want to part with them. Some of the people who have them and want to sell, want to sell only to the highest bidder,” Benegal says.
He points out that the museum still does not have the kind of collection or equipment that he would deem ideal. “If you wish to know what India was like and what its middle class aspired for, that is yet to take place,” he says. “It is an evolving thing. There should be much more interactive stuff. You should be able to step into a film of the 1920s or ’40s. It should be as interactive as modern technology will allow it to be.” It’s too verbose, is how Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, film director and founder of the Film Heritage Foundation (FHF), puts it. “Mostly dry details. In this day, a museum should just not tell people history in text, but make them feel for that history. The National Museum of Cinema, Turin, Italy or Cinematheque in Paris don’t just offer details but an experience that people from across the world travel for.”
Inexplicably, there’s an entire floor dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, a man wellknown to have been entirely disinterested in cinema. Much of this floor is taken up by memorabilia around films with a link to Gandhi. In one corner sits a statue of the leader, watching on a loop the only film he ever did watch — Vijay Bhatt’s epic-based Ram Rajya (1943).
Despite a room in Gulshan Mahal dedicated to films representative of major political and social movements, there is no mention of the LGBT movement.
“We had hoped that, after the historic judgment last year striking down Article 377, representation of the movement in cinema would find a place,” says activist and filmmaker Sridhar Rangayan, who also spearheads the annual Kashish queer film festival in Mumbai.
He plans to suggest a list of films that could be added. “No museum is or should be stagnant and we hope that’s true in this case too, that things will be added over time,” he says. There are certainly plusses — including a collection of beautiful and rare film posters, and the stunning restoration of Gulshan Mahal itself.
The setting up of the museum was spearheaded by the National Council of Science Museums. It is now run by the Films Division of India, which is in the process of recruiting a full-time curator. “An advertisement is out,” says Prashant Pathrabe, director general of the Films Division.
“Being a government organisation, the committee had involved the National Council of Science Museums as they had the experience of designing a museum.”
Pathrabe says the Films Division welcomes suggestions on how to add value to the museum.
“It is a great positive step that we have a museum for cinema after more than 100 years of making films,” Benegal adds. “Any museum is only a work in progress. With the huge size of our cinema industry, we will definitely also need more museums in different cities.”
The interactive VFX section is a definite win. It lets you pick a background, pose against a green screen and have a picture taken of the completed effect.
Inexplicably, an entire floor is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, who is well-known to have had no interest in cinema and only ever watched one film.(Left) Many displays rely on stills and text, with no audiovisual or interactive components.