Ajmer's historical film archive dying a slow death

  • Bhawna Thakur, Hindustan Times, Ajmer
  • Updated: Jan 12, 2015 15:50 IST

A historic film archive in Ajmer, whose collection includes more than 3,000 movies and documentaries, has fallen on hard times because of a lack of resources and experts have warned that most of its treasures could be lost to the ravages of time.

Most of the younger generation in Ajmer is unaware of the existence of the Audio Visual Educational Technology Centre, once a centre of education and entertainment before the arrival of cable TV and satellite channels.

Situated at a prime location near the city's main bus stand, the archive's building has been declared hazardous by the PWD.

Its collection of historical documentaries and feature films, including rare clips of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, are turning into junk because resources are not available for their preservation, officials said.

Referring to the historical value of the centre, Om Prakash Sharma, a retired history professor, told HT: "It made a matchless contribution to Ajmer and it should be preserved. There are only two such centres in India – one in Ajmer and the other in Pune."

The centre was established in 1951 and its deputy director Abdul Pakhi chose B P Sharma as the Audio-Visual Education Officer (AVEO).

"It was only due to the hard work by the AVEO that the centre has more than 5,000 films, documentaries and slides and its importance reached such a level that a copy of every film released in Rajasthan was submitted to the centre. The centre purchased 16mm projectors to show films in nearby villages to make people aware of new avenues of knowledge," Om Prakash Sharma said.

BP Sharma was the lone movie cameraman in the area and had filmed Queen Elizabeth's visit to Jaipur in 1961.

Cinema vans were allotted to the centre and a temporary cinema hall was built, where children from nearby villages watched educational films.

The archive's problems began when Ajmer was merged with Rajasthan in November 1956 and the state government took few steps to preserve its collection of films.

"After the death of BP Sharma in 1975 no one took care of this library," Om Prakash Sharma said.

Nigam Chand, a technician at the archive, said the strength of the staff had fallen from 40 to 11.

Bharat Sharma, director of the educational technology department, said, "We are trying our level best to preserve these films. We have launched an initiative to digitise its films and documentaries. For this, I have requested the State Institute of Educational Research and Training in Udaipur to give us permission to visit the Pune film archive and work on the digitisation of
our films." ​

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