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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Dawinder Bansal Recreates 80s’ British-Bollywood Culture in Jambo Cinema

Jambo Cinema is an immersive art installation where audiences are invited to enter the world of an artist, Dawinder Bansal and her childhood of growing up inside 1980s Wolverhampton, inside her parents’ Bollywood VHS rental shop.

Back then, VHS shops were not only a place offering entertainment but also a place where Asians could re-connect with their home-country and consumer their cinema whilst living abroad.

It’s a step back in time, complete with original artefacts and photographs from her time growing up reflecting her heritage of Kenyan-Indian decent.

Sharing a few words about this magnificent exhibition, Dawinder says: “Around 2015, I began asking myself questions about my heritage and identity.

I started exploring my parents’ belongings, including their passports and my late father’s briefcase which is ultimately how this project idea came to me.

 As I looked at his belongings (left inside exactly as they were when he passed) I also explored all the shop stock which comprised of nearly 400 VHS original tapes and their artwork.

I thought to myself, this is my story and the social history of the South Asian community in Britain.

I wanted to tell this story and I wanted to also celebrate the generation of my parents who migrated to the UK from Kenya, who sacrificed their lives for my generation of British Asians to have all the life opportunities they never had.”

As the audience walks into the living room, they are immediately struck with a sense of familiarity.

This is a room they know, the family photos and all the ornaments have a story to tell so in that sense it is a multi-layered and textural environment.

On the vintage TV set, a film is playing – the story of Bansal’s life and how movies played such an important part of her youth and now as an artist.

The role of watching countless Bollywood films and later on Hollywood films that led her to tell stories of people in my artistic work.

After Dawinder’s father passed away, the shop closed down but her mother insisted on retaining all of the VHS original tapes and their corresponding artwork.

They have been in storage since 1989 and she started looking through them all-around 2015. That’s really when she got the idea for this project.

This is because not only would she be exploring her own identity but Dawinder realised that she had an archive of material that was valuable to the South Asian community and its social history.

Subsequently, she started off by testing out a small idea in 2016 over a weekend and it was received so well that she developed it further.

Finally, in 2019 it was commissioned by Barbican Centre for Leytonstone Loves Film Festival and this year, the extension of this work at New Art Exchange in Nottingham.

While her other iterations of Jambo Cinema have been the re-creation of my living room and this is the first time that she has created her parent’s video shop alongside the living room.

Expressing her reaction on this wonderful re-creation, Dawinder says:

“I’m so very proud of this iteration of the project because it’s so accurate to how life was and people who have engaged with the installation have said how grateful they are for the creation of this piece and for my honesty.”

She adds: “This piece of work speaks to all age groups and communities. For young people, they can see how life used to be for their grandparents and how limited South Asian TV programmes were.

It is educational in so many ways. Bollywood has changed so much too – I remember so many of the films in the 1980s revolved around the rise of the underdog and I think this has changed quite a lot nowadays.

My parents’ shop allowed me to watch so many films – some of them were very old black and white Hindi and Punjabi films. Posti is one to mention here, that’s definitely one of my mum’s favourites.

For me, those older films have a sense of romanticism and innocence that I feel has completely disappeared in Bollywood today.

The comedic scriptwriting is also so very pure and simple and there will always be a place in my heart for these kinds of films.

Also, Sholay and Shaan have some very hilarious dialogues but the actors also deliver them with such conviction, you can’t help but watch those old classics over and over again.

Making this project has been healing for me in so many ways and I feel so very proud of this iteration. There were people who did not believe in this project and I was once told by an artistic director “this is just a bunch of stuff”.

The installation is a warm and fun space for people from all backgrounds.

Visitors will be able to imagine what it means to be a second-generation child growing up in a British South Asian home in 1980s Britain.

It is open until 15 March 2020 and entrance is free.

In addition, Dawinder will also present her film, Asian Women and Cars: Road to Independence followed by a discussion with other on 7th March, 12 pm – 1.30 pm to mark International Women’s Day.

Free, book online http://www.nae.org.uk or call 0115 924 8630.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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