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Bollywood Icons: 100 Years of Indian Cinema

2013 marked the centenary of Indian cinema, one of the most prolific film industries in the world. To commemorate the historic occasion, we showcased some of Bollywood’s best-known actors and most-loved films.


About the exhibition

Fearless Nadia

Who’d have believed a blonde Australian woman would become one of Indian cinema’s earliest and most memorable heroines! When Mary Evans adopted the Fearless Nadia moniker during the 1930s, she found a niche as Bollywood’s original stunt queen, even releasing a film of the same name. The horseback-riding, masked and cloaked stuntwoman went on to make action films into the late 1960s.

The Kapoors

When veteran theatre actor Prithviraj Kapoor became the star of India’s film talkie, Alam Ara, in 1931, he could never have imagined that his sons, grandsons and even his great-grandchildren would follow in his footsteps. The Kapoor dynasty has given us critically acclaimed actor, producer and director Raj Kapoor, who set up RK Films in the late 1940s. His son is Rishi Kapoor, one of the stars of cult classic Amar Akbar Anthony. With Rishi’s son, Ranbir, making waves in Bollywood today, it’s little wonder the Kapoors are regarded as the first family of Indian cinema.

Amitabh Bachchan

He may have found fame as the original ‘angry young man’ of the 1970s, but the legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan has gone on to find success in every conceivable hero role over the next four decades. Still acting today, Amitabh Bachchan now presents one of the most popular programmes on Indian television, Kaun Banega Crorepati, their version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

Iconic women

In the off-screen lives of many of Bollywood’s best-loved actresses there lurks a tale of tragedy or romance. Fans of Indian cinema will be familiar with these backstories, particularly since they enjoy reading the real life of a favourite star into their ‘reel life’ presence: who fell in love with whom; who married a co-star; and how different generations are related. But this isn’t just idle gossip to film fans—this is the stuff that feeds the star’s on-screen persona and adds to our viewing pleasure!

Shahrukh Khan

Shahrukh Khan’s popularity is a testament to the power and reach of Indian cinema. The superstar’s global fanbase is bigger than most Hollywood stars could ever imagine. Shahrukh Khan has starred in some of Bollywood’s biggest blockbusters in recent years, and with his own film production company, he is also actively involved in making and distributing his own films. As one of the most influential men in Bollywood today, Shahrukh Khan has earned the nickname ‘King of Bollywood’.


Further reading

  • On our blog: Decoding the Bollywood poster by Irna Qureshi
  • Rajesh Devraj and Paul Duncan, The Art of Bollywood (Taschen, 2010)
  • Rachel Dwyer, 100 Bollywood Films (Roli Books, 2005)
  • Rachel Dwyer and Divia Patel, Cinema India: The Visual Culture of Hindi Film (Reaktion Books, 2002)
  • Nasreen Munni Kabir, Bollywood (Channel 4 Books, 2001)
  • Jerry Pinto and Sheena Sippy, Bollywood Posters (Thames & Hudson, 2008)
  • Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen (Ed.), An Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema (British Film Institute (London), 1999)

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