But for many armchair travelers, subcontinental modernity takes a backseat to postcard visions of elephants, teeming rustic streets, and snake charmers.
Fans of Rudyard Kipling and E.M. Forster will thrill to the vintage footage in a just released British Film Institute online archive, India on Film (see a trailer above).
1914’s The Wonderful Fruit of the Tropics, a stencil-coloured French-produced primer on the edible flora of India offers just the right blend of exoticism and reassurance (“the fruit of a mango is excellent as a food”) for a newly arrived British housewife.
A Native Street in India (1906) speaks to the populousness that continues to define a country scheduled to outpace China’s numbers within the next 10 years.
An Eastern Market follows a Punjabi farmer’s trek to town, to buy and sell and take in the big city sights.
The Raj makes itself known in 1925's King Emperor's Cup Race, a Handley Page biplane arriving in Calcutta in 1917, and several films documenting Edward Prince of Wales’ 1922 tour
Explore the full BFI’s full India on Film: 1899-1947 playlist here. It features 90 films in total, with maybe more to come.