John Noonan

Influential film studio, The Bombay Talkies Ltd, was established in 1934 by filmmaker Himanshu Rai and his movie star wife Devika Rani. An innovative centre of art and creation, Bombay Talkies would be seen as a revolution in terms of Indian filmmaking. Making films that would resonate with contemporary India, whilst speaking to a larger audience, the Studio on the outskirts of Mumbai, released 40 films over 20 years and launched the careers of many including Ashok Kumar (Achhut Kannya) and Raj Kapoor (Awaara).

Their last film may have been in 1954 but now, over 80 years later, the forerunners in escapist cinema are being remembered in a new exhibition being held at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, Victoria.

The exhibition showcases, for the very first time, the Dietze Family Trust archive, a Melbourne-based treasure trove containing more than 3,000 cultural artefacts once owned by Himanshu Rai. It is considered one of the most comprehensive collection of 1920s and 1930s Indian film studio ephemera in the world, containing behind the scene correspondence, poster art, brochures and more.

The exhibition was officially opened last night by Katrina Sedgwick (Director and CEO of ACMI) and Minister Martin Foley. Also in attendance was Peter Dietze, the Australian Grandson of Himanshu Rai, who, along with his two brothers inherited this wealth of movie memories.

“The Bombay Talkies ACMI exhibition is what I call an entrée in [the studio’s] creation,” Peter said on the night. “A chance to understand the extraordinary life of a true pioneer in every sense of the word. Our grandfather; Himanshu Rai.”

Bombay Talkies is part of the AsiaTOPA festival, ‘an artistic celebration of our relationship with contemporary Asia.’ It’s free and runs from today until 2nd July.

For more information about the exhibition, visit the ACMI website.


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