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Why are the great old films vanishing?

PK Nair, former director of the National Film Archives in Pune, raises the question at the Asian film festival, reports Vidyadhar Date.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2008 18:48 IST
Vidyadhar Date
Vidyadhar Date
Hindustan Times

The organisers of the recent seventh Asian film festival in Mumbai did well to felicitate P K Nair, former director of the National Film Archives in Pune, who has contributed immeasurably in the preservation of Indian films.

But the compere seemed to know little about the archives. He kept pronouncing archives as Archies. But this was nothing like the faux pas made by the compere at the film festival last year. A wannabe film actress, she thought director Rituparna Ghosh is a girl.

In his address, Nair said that 70 per cent of the films made in India before 1950 have been lost because few cared for the preservation of their work.

S S Vasan, the eminent film maker from Chennai, had once told Nair that he had made 30 to 40 films but considered only two to three worth preserving.

However, Bimal Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, V Shantaram and Raj Kapoor have been lovingly preserved. One of the biggest collections of the archives is from the Prabhat studio banner.

Those preserved
Nair had once met Ardeshir Irani to find out if he had a copy of Alam Ara, the first sound film of India. Mr Irani said a few reels could be lying somewhere. But even those had been sold as nitrate film material was considered highly inflammable.

The Phalke family based in Nashik and Dombivli, however, had preserved the nitrate films of Dadasaheb Phalke, though some were just in bits and pieces. The only complete film was Kaliya Mardan. Ratnakar Matkari, noted Marathi writer, stated that film scholars and societies were not paying enough attention to the study of the great tradition of Marathi cinema.

Chavan Centre, one of the venues of the festival screenings, now has a spanking new theatre — a smaller one — on the fourth floor with a high ceiling and wood panelling.

First Published: Oct 27, 2008 18:17 IST