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A Cinematic Imagination : Josef Wirsching and the Bombay Talkies

Have you heard of Josef Wirsching? Not many have. But this is a German man who fell in love with
Indian cinema. Wirsching who was born in Munich worked for over 17 Indian Cinema. He was the
official cinematographer of Bombay Talkies set up by Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani. The exhibition
is in fact a tribute to his works. Out and about 130 works of this legendary cinematographer,
collected from his library is kept for display for the first time at Goa. Each of these photographs is a
journey through the early Indian cinema as well as Bombay Talkies. These photographs, shot
primarily on 35mm with a Leica camera between the 1920s – 60s, give us unprecedented access to
the aesthetic decisions, creative communities, and cross-cultural exchanges that were vital to
filmmaking in late colonial India.
Wirsching not just did his work as a cinematographer but tried to document the things happening
around. Talking to BBC, Rahaab Allana said that “Wirsching brought a European internationalism to
Indian Cinema and aspects of modernism also took root in the secular themes of film like Achyut
Kanya that questioned untouchability.” The exhibition is special in many ways for the year marks the
50 th birth anniversary of Wirsching.

About the Curators :
Rahaab Allana is the curator of the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts in New Delhi, and a Fellow of the
Royal Asiatic Society in London. He is also the Founding Editor of PIX, one among India’s primary
theme-based photography periodicals, and is the author of Filmi Jagat: Shared Universe of Early
Hindi Cinema.

Debashree Mukherjee is Assistant Professor of South Asian film and visual cultures at Columbia
University in New York. She is currently working on a book titled, Parallel Action: Bombay Cinema
and the Practice of Modernity.

About the collaborator :
Georg Wirsching is an artist, photographer, and illustrator with a bachelor’s degree in Visual
Communications from Loyola College, Chennai. Georg also teaches art and design to a growing
group of young students at The Paradise School, a privately run Cambridge-affiliated institution
based in Goa, India.

About the Designer :
Sudeep Chaudhuri is a graphic designer, scenographer, and educator. He graduated from the
National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and established the design studio OH! In 2002.

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