Museums have long acted as sites of heritage and preservations for civilisation. They store and archive the knowledge of significance in various forms. In our age, museums are of different kinds ranging from art, history, archaeology and film-oriented museums.
To the pleasant surprise of cinephiles across the country, Indian authorities have finally established the National Museum of Indian Cinema towards the nation's cinematic heritage. Housed in the splendid 19th-century Gulshan Mahal, a Mumbai bungalow renowned for its architectural grandeur, the museum boasts a treasure trove of invaluable film archives. Originally constructed in the Indo-Saracenic style by Peerbhoy Khalakdina, a merchant from the Khoja Muslim community, this Victorian-era gem offers a breathtaking view of the Arabian Sea, making it a delightful destination for film tourism. Another wing of the museum resides at little more than a few yards from Gulshan Mahal in the New Museum Building.
Through digital archives, soundtracks, retro magazines, posters and other cinematic paraphernalia, the museum takes you on a virtual tour into the history of Indian cinema as much as it amounts to a quality cultural immersion trip and a highly instagrammable location. The die-hard film junkies won't delay in noticing that the place was also the set for the film Munna Bhai MBBS (2003).
To the delight of film and pop-culture enthusiasts, the museum runs a clip of the first film projection in India done by the Parisian Lumiere Brothers at Watson's Hotel after they landed in Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1896 – only a year after the discovery of moving images in 1895. Following the historical age of discovery and the coming of cinema to India, the museum further brings attention to silent films, the studio era and the horrors of World War II through clips, posters and old photographs.
Whenever silent and the first films of India are talked about, the name of Dadsaheb Phalke – the grand vizier of Indian cinema – automatically comes into bearing. As a pertinent homage, the National Museum of Indian Cinema boasts of an exact replica of the camera that was used by Phalke to shoot, arguably the first Indian film, Raja Harishchandra (1913). The museum brilliantly displays the craft and creativity of other Indian film giants such as Satyajit Ray and Raj Kapoor upcycling their film booklets and EP records as objects of historical importance.
Across its several halls, the museum offers poignant tributes to Indian cinema's icons: a graceful bust of DG Phalke, a Chaplinesque statue of Raj Kapoor, a mural honouring Satyajit Ray and a massive poster of Madhuri Dixit. As visitors travel through, the floor's reel pattern becomes a visual ode to films. The museum also delves into representing the various strains of nationalism disseminated through the social films of the 1950s as well as the onset of stardom in the industry. Being forthright and inclusive, the museum doesn't fail to throw light on the unsung yet highly talented female actors of the silent films who did wonders through facial expressions alone.
On another level, the children's film studio provides an interactive and enlightening experience in camera, light, editing, shooting and other film technicalities. It brings the young buds close to the magic of filmmaking and how it functions. A statue of Mahatma Gandhi sits in the Gandhi and Cinema section of the museum, watching clips of the film Ram Rajya from 1943. As an immersive destination in Mumbai, the National Film Museum of Indian Cinema is the bridging boon to the wonderful world of films for those who arrive in Mumbai with aspirations of making a name in the city of dreams.
Timings: 11 am to 6 pm from Tuesday to Sunday
Air: The Mumbai International Airport is at 17.5 km
Rail: Mumbai Central Railway Station is just 2.3 KM distance from National Museum of Indian Cinema.
Road: National Highway - 48, NH 160, NH 752, NH 348, NH 848, NH 66 all connect Mumbai to other cities of India. National Film Museum of Indian Cinema is just 7.0 km from Gateway of India.