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Painted Sceneries, 2007.....a stunning exhibition of actual 19th cent. painted backdrops, as well as over 200 rare 19th century photographs of the Natya Sangeet, an operatic form of theatre that evolved in Maharashtra under the influence of British touring companies and patronized by local rajas to begin with. Its instant success prompted proscenium theatres to spring up, especially in the commercial city of Mumbai, and with them highly supported theatre companies. A major part of the attractiveness of this new form of city entertainment was its use of scintillating backdrops that could magically transport audiences to several opulent locations with the quick change of backdrops from scene to scene. From lush gardens to monumental palaces, from middle class homes to poverty stricken huts, from forts to dungeons,...scene painters became much sort after by major theatre companies. Finally scene painters shifted to the more lucrative, Bombay film industry of the 1940s, providing early silent movies with painted backdrops in an era when studio shooting was the norm, rather than actual location.

Nissar Allana, one of the most well known scenographers of India, has spent a lifetime collecting, colating and now finally curating an exhibition on not just the painted backdrops, an art that has subsequently died due to new ideas of 3 dimensional scenography taking over, but has widened the scope of this exhibition to include a kaleidoscopic view of a golden era of popular theatre that is recognized as the beginnings of the modernist movement in contemporary Indian theatre. This is the first such exhibition of its kind that documents so vividly, part of the history of the beginnings of the contemporary movement in Indian theatre, and relatedly, in Indian art and studio photography.