Last week the Conferro Auction launched, with a special preview at the Westbury Hotel in Mayfair, the Vintage Bollywood Memorabilia auction which celebrates 100 years of Bollywood cinema. Since the first Bollywood movie in 1913 (Raja Harishchandra by Dadasaheb Phalke) the industry kept growing becoming one of the largest in the world and reaching global success. The UK is currently the biggest market abroad for Bollywood film productions, contributing up to 20 per cent of the industry profit.
The event is launched and organized by the Conferro Auction with Pratham UK as charity partner, and promoted by Curzon PR. The Conferro Auction is a new London-based auction house specialized in Indian art and collectables. Sharan Seth, its founder and director, collects different objects such as jewelleries and artefacts from India and other countries in Asia. He started collecting since he was 14 years old following the steps of his father and grandfather.
The work and research behind his collective practice is aimed at more than building up valuable and prestigious collections; Seth reckons that events and the auction house work have to promote and increase awareness about Indian art and culture, in this case represented by the Bollywood film industry. This is one of the reasons why other events and auctions will take place in several other places in the UK and abroad.
The collection of 150 items, which will be auctioned on Friday 29 of November, includes vintage LPs, banners, synopses, posters, lobby cards and gramophones from some of the most popular and cult films of Bollywood production such as Awara (1951), Mother India (1957) Mughal-e-Azam (1960) and Sholay (1975). As the exhibition shows, the collection retraces the history and success of Bollywood cinema and music especially focusing on the years between 1940 and 1990.
Since the advent of sound films in the 30’s and especially from the second half of the 40’s, film making became inseparable from Hindi film music production. Some of the music producers and singers became stars of the silver screen as much as actors and film producers. The sixties, signed the golden years for Hindi film music and Conferro Auction, has included one lot for each year of the decade. Authors like S. D. Burton (composer for the thriller Teesri Manzil and Aradhana), Roshan (composer for films Taj Mahal, 1963 and Barsat-Ki-Raat, 1960) and Ravi (Gumrah, 1963) are widely represented in the collection with several LPs. Some of them gave voice to famous actors such as Rajesh Khanna (Kishore Kumar was his voice in Aradhana).
Even if less celebrated than the 60’s, the 70’s and 80’s still produced very successful Hindi film music which is widely represented in the collection including works by Rahul Dev Burman, Laxmikant Pyarelal, Rajesh Roshan and Bappi Lahiri. In this sense the collection clearly reveals how film-making, music production and actors performances were strictly linked and belonged to each other for reciprocal success.
Amongst the material on auction a section is dedicated to that production of movies which became very popular in the USSR as the alternative to Hollywood movies prohibited in the Soviet Union. The Bollywood stars became real heroes in Russia where they are well known especially through the movies of Raj Kapoor such as Awara and Shree 420. In Awara the Kapoor’s tramp-like character inspired by Chaplin’s model had large success meeting the communist ideology communicating the message of happiness in spite of poverty. Other movies popular in Russia and represented in the collection are Sangam (1964), Aah, (1953) both with Kapoor as actor and producer, Barood (1976) with Raj’s son Rishi Kapoor and Joker (the circus clown alter ego of the tramp, 1970), always directed and interpreted by Kapoor, which had more success in Russia than India.
Part of the collection is also specifically dedicated to the superstars of Bollywood movies with a number of them dedicated to actors and composers such as Amitabh Bachchan, Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Ravi and S.D. Burman. It also celebrates other important figures such as director Shantaram Rajaram Vankudre, actor Balraj Sahni and playback singer Manna Dey.
The Vintage Bollywood memorabilia auction and show is definitely an event that uncovers an important part of Indian identity and culture and makes them visible abroad. It is a great occasion for amateurs and fans to discover rare collectables about their beloved movie stars and for those who are newly introduced to Bollywood to get to know more about its vibrant world and protagonists.
For the events program and catalogue of the auction see:
How can the attention brought by the show and auction to Bollywood cinema strengthen the awareness and the importance of Indian cultural identity for the global cultural industry?