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Mumbai gets an old-school movie mural makeover

Two film buffs are brightening up the home of Bollywood ahead of Indian cinema's centenary next year.

A mural of Amitabh Bachchan. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP
A mural of Amitabh Bachchan. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP

Frustrated by the lack of old Bollywood glamour on the streets of Mumbai, two film buffs are trying to brighten up India's movie capital with mural tributes ahead of the industry's 100th birthday.

The iconic image of a young Amitabh Bachchan, the biggest star of Hindi cinema, has been lovingly recreated on a roadside wall, replicating the dying style of hand-painted poster art.

Bachchan's character Vijay joined the underworld of the city's mean streets in the 1975 hit Deewaar, but the film's antihero now has pride of place on a lane in the hip Bandra suburb, home to many film stars.

Despite the abundance of slick new posters plastered around Mumbai, the artist Ranjit Dahiya says he was struck at how the city's rich film heritage was being forgotten in recent years.

"I couldn't see any Bollywood in Bombay, yet this is the city of Bollywood," says Dahiya, using the city's old name. "So I thought I should paint the walls on the street."

The mural in Bandra is the second to be completed as part of the Bollywood Art Project (BAP), a self-funded venture set up by Dahiya and his friend Tony Peter to create film artwork "accessible for everyone".

The duo hopes to finish about one painting a month in the run-up to May next year, when India will celebrate a century since its first silent feature film Raja Harishchandra opened in Mumbai in 1913.

Getting permission is not always straightforward, with plans for a 70-foot dancing girl thwarted by unimpressed locals.

"It depends on the people," says Dahiya. "Some people are sensible and really know about the art."

Their murals also pay tribute to Bollywood's old poster painters, whose art Dahiya laments "is going to die" as digital media technology takes over.

It is one of many aspects of the prolific film industry that some fans would like to see preserved in Mumbai, whose role at the heart of the movie world may have passed its glory days.

A recent exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art explored the relationship between Mumbai and the movies, while the first part of a museum dedicated to Indian cinema is due to open in December.

"It's going to be pretty huge," says DP Reddy, the joint secretary of India's information and broadcasting ministry, adding that 1.2 billion rupees (Dh73 million) will be spent on the project. - AFP