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Institutions like the Bollywood Bazar make Mumbai worth your while

BOLLYWOOD Bazar, a nondescript little shop squeezed in a corner in Mumbai's bustling Chor Bazaar on Mohammad Ali Road, is easy to miss. You can easily walk past it without noticing it. Yet, that doesn't stop collectors, foreign tourists, movie people and the occasional curious souls from finding it. What the shop lacks in size, it makes up for with its mind- boggling range of Bollywood curios and memorabilia.

Lonely Planet recommends this shop to visitors in Mumbai as the one- stop place to pick up " movie industry kitsch C* original vintage Bollywood posters and other movie ephemera." All that is true, but it does not do full justice to the experience of being in Bollywood Bazar. Being there is like taking a mini- lesson in Bollywod history, courtesy of the proprietor Shahid Mansoori.

The stocks include a collection of over 3,000 movie posters ( many hand- painted), black and white stills, lobby cards, synopsis booklets, old album sleeves and song books. The collection ranges from 1930s to 1980s. And 60- something Mansoori knows every poster like the back of his hand. He has watched almost every old Hindi film at least twice.

An encyclopedia of Bollywood trivia, there is little that he does not know. I pick up a tin cigarette case with an image of a buxom heroine on it in bright Eastman colour. " Who's this?" Pat comes the reply. " That's Gulshan, the actress who played Leela in the first Bollywood version of Tarzan, Toofani Tarzan , in 1937." It all started when Mansoori got interested in wrestling as a school boy and became a fan of Dara Singh. He'd walk the streets and tear Dara Singh's movie posters off the walls. The passion grew till he was collecting almost everything he could get his hands on.

Soon, his father's antique shop in Chor Bazaar became a one- of- itskind specialty shop for film collectibles.

He now travels all over India, from quaint little towns in Rajasthan to a hamlet in Madhya Pradesh, just to follow a lead. " If I hear that someone has an old LP or poster anywhere in India, I have to get it," he says.

Not too many people know about the shop and the business isn't lucrative. But Mansoori is content to keep it that way. " I would rather cater to people who are passionate about movies than have a circus of people walking in out of idle curiosity," he says.

Those in the know have often used his expertise. When Farah Khan needed to recreate the ' 70sstyle sets for Om Shanti Om , it was Mansoori who supplied her props ranging from posters to furniture.

Similarly, the armour worn by Hrithik Roshan in the battle scenes in Jodhaa Akbar were also supplied by him. The armour occupies pride of place at the entrance of the shop.

HIS selection of posters has just been sent to France for a Raj Kapoor retrospective.

The 150 exhibits that he has sent include rareposters, synopses and lyric books from Kapoor's filmography. The idea started after Sally Picard, a visitor from France, walked into his shop a few years back and discovered the treasure that lies hidden in the cramped room.

She decided to share the treasure and the idea of a festival in Paris grew. Last year, a similar exhibition was held by Picard in Paris for Guru Dutt, with Mansoori supplying all paraphernalia related to the talented director.

Next year's subject is Amitabh Bachchan and Mansoori has already started gathering posters and collectibles for the showcase.

His collection has been a source for many books on Bollywood.

Like David Blamey's Living Pictures , a book on film posters, and A Man of Many Moods by Hanif Zaveri on Mansoori's good friend Mehmood.

More recently, Bollywood Bazar was the source for Sheena Sippy's Bollywood Posters . " I started collecting posters when no one else realised their value," Mansoori says. " Everyone thought it was nothing but trash. But now these are invaluable." There is something for everyone here. You can buy a rare poster, a booklet or an old film journal at prices starting from Rs 50. Earlier, Mansoori's clientele consisted solely of foreigners, but now he says more Indians are getting interested in posters as an art form.

Sadly enough, in this city of dreams, with a movie industry that dates back to the beginning of the last century there is no official museum to preserve invaluable artifacts. Mansoori laments this and mentions how Osian is toying with the idea of opening a film museum. If that were to happen, his collection would probably be the most coveted of all.

Would he donate his invaluable collection to a museum? He's not sure, but what he does know is that he has to earn a living, despite his passion. There are certain items, though, that money can't buy. Those belong to his personal collection, like the hand- painted canvases of Guru Dutt and Raj Kumar movies, the synopsis booklet of Alam Ara , India's first sound movie. Says Mansoori: " No one else has this in the country but me. I plan to never sell it. It's a symbol of my lifelong passion.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Oct 25, 2009
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