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An interactive exhibition delving into the history of Indian film will open in Leicester next week, highlighting how film screenings can bring communities together and help people understand the importance of diasporic Indian cinema and its cultural heritage. 

Curated by Dr Monia Acciari and Dr Anoop Bhogal-Nair from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Indian independence, the ‘Creative Archives of Indian Cinema’ exhibition, opening on Friday, May 6 at LCB Depot, and will also be the opening event for the annual UK Asian Film festival taking place at Phoenix Cinema.

Picture: De Montfort University

Creative Archives of Indian Cinema, part of which has also been put together by Film Studies, Media Production and Marketing students from DMU, will feature traditional archive material alongside material that have been digitised to engage younger audiences.

The exhibition will celebrate the worldwide cultural significance of South Asian film, showcasing various unseen film posters, lobby cards, printing blocks and artwork from popular films such as AanSholayKabhie Kabhie and The Great Gambler.

“Film history is often told in a very traditional way, so for this exhibition we wanted to use digital storytelling to help people – especially young people and those from Indian communities – engage with Indian heritage in a way that is more familiar to them,” said Dr Acciari, associate professor in Film History.

The exhibition, which is a collaborative project between DMU, Loughborough University, Symbiosis College of Arts & Commerce and Savitribai Phule Pune University, has been made possible thanks to funding from a wider UKRI Research and Innovation-funded project, led by Dr Acciari.

In 2019, DMU was loaned an archive by the Cinema Museum in London – the first permanent Indian Cinema collection at a UK university – featuring unique publicity material dating from the 1948 – the year immediately post-independence.

“This exhibition is the next stage of the project – we want to engage with the large South Asian demographic that we have here in Leicester and the Midlands,” said Dr Acciari. 

“Our ultimate goal is to develop a regional hub for the preservation and public engagement with Indian film heritage in the UK, and build a connection with communities in the subcontinent.”

Creative Archives will use the DMU Indian cinema collection, digital storytelling, and co-creative approaches with the public to involve the community to engage, beyond the mere experience of film viewing, with experiences that constitute Indian film culture.

So far, part of the collection comprising of a large number of memorabilia, has been digitised – such as unique and fragile glass slides and lobby cards.

“We hope to make heritage accessible for all, and foster citizen-preservation to produce and share untold stories of Indian cinema,” added Dr Acciari.

Students who have contributed to the exhibition include Simona Liandzbergaite (Film Studies), Mateusz Olech (Film Studies), Ieva Adamonyte (Film Studies), Andris Kalnins (Media Production), Elena Boyadjian (Marketing) and Elliott Martin (Marketing).

Creative Archives will be open to the public at LCB Depot from Friday, May 6 at 5.30pm.

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