Des élèves de Terminales ont vu l’exposition "Bollywood Superstars" au musée du quai Branly

par Proviseur

A review of the exhibition Bollywood Superstars by Victoria Orsini (T-H)

Have you heard about Phalke, Raj Kapoor, or Amitabh Bachchan before ? I hadn’t either, and yet they are truly important personalities for more than one billion people, real superstars !
Despite the importance of the Indian film industry (which releases more than 2000 films a year), French people are not aware of this industry. We often think of specific colours, dances, or myths when people mention Bollywood. However this vision of ours is so restricted compared to the reality of Bollywood and the Indian film industry in general.
I really enjoyed the exhibition at Musée Quai Branly. To begin with, the exhibition opened my eyes on the diversity of films produced. There were romances but also thrillers, biopics, horror movies and so on ! The diversity of genre is due to the “Masala culture” : Indians expect to feel various feelings, to see spectacular shows, and intense stories, all conveyed in 3- or 4-hour films. Anyone can find their Bollywood film, depending on their personal interest.
Furthermore, I was surprised by the long history of storytelling in India. Don’t be fooled by the title “Bollywood Superstars”, the exhibition is a true time travel with ancient traditions and myths whose legacy is still present nowadays. With a guided tour, you go back to the times of gods and mythical creatures, you hear the story of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and their avatars. Storytelling is strongly linked with Hinduism, for example one among many books is the Ramayana that we can compare with Homer’s Iliad. I believe that the link made between the ancient myths and their legacy on screen was my favourite part of the exhibition.
In addition, to understand Bollywood, you must understand its aesthetic codes. At first sight, a Bollywood film might appear as a bunch of songs and dances. However, each movement, expression or position has a meaning, it is a way to convey messages beside the dialogue. We had fun learning the sign for “friendship” or “kiss”, often used in dance scenes.
Moreover, the exhibition highlights how Indians appropriated British innovations and codes. For instance, they used to paint over black and white pictures of nobles, showing their fortune and nobility, while they didn’t have real political power under the British rule. It was a way of asserting their cultural identity that I find inspiring.
Finally, the exhibition is well made : you find yourself immersed in a universe of colours, lights, music, and film extracts just as if you were in a Bollywood film ! I totally recommend this exhibition, especially if you want to broaden your horizons and deepen your understanding of Indian and Bollywood.

A review of the exhibition Bollywood Superstars by Lison Nardin (T-H)

To know what to expect, this exhibition is based on sight, on what you see. Just like in the relationship between the believer and the gods in the Hindu religion, sight is key. The colors are surrounding you, pushing you into a world full of orange, red and yellow which are very important colors in Bollywood. I felt like the purpose of the exhibition was to create a world around you, where you aren’t just watching the movies but where you are in the movies. It gets pretty obvious once you step into the kaleidoscope room. It was a great discovery, from the storytellers in the streets explaining legends with a pad to the Bollywood superstars, living in their legacy. You get caught into this maze of colors and pictures, making you walk through the Indian cinematographic history, the coded dances, the gods with their legends and specific representations, the tradition of colors, several extracts taken from Bollywood films and posters, and so much more. By the time you’re out, you just want to watch a Bollywood movie. This exhibition will make you understand every aesthetic code in Bollywood films by comparing a painting with the god Krishna and an extract from a movie where the characters are dancing. By opening the doors of the exhibition you are opening the (probably closed) doors which are forbidding you to discover Bollywood. I personally found this exhibition very interesting, it aroused my curiosity for sure. There are several parts that I really enjoyed and made me discover things like the history of the Mughal and the Rajput Empires. I also found very interesting the fact that all the groundbreaking innovations brought by British people to reinforce their cultural domination over India (the magic lantern, photography) were actually appropriated by Indian people to assert their own cultural identity. I really liked this exhibition, even more than the subject itself, the way it is laid out is very pleasant and I recommend it. It is a part of cinema that I didn’t know and I’m glad I discovered it.