Old films to get new life

Bengaluru, Karnataka: 21/07/2016: Prakash Magdum, Director National Film Archive of India and Film Director Girish Kasaravalli, in Bengaluru on July 21, 2016. Photo: G.P. Sampath Kumar.

Bengaluru, Karnataka: 21/07/2016: Prakash Magdum, Director National Film Archive of India and Film Director Girish Kasaravalli, in Bengaluru on July 21, 2016. Photo: G.P. Sampath Kumar.   | Photo Credit: G_P_Sampath Kumar

Here is your chance to contribute any film collectibles you own to the National Film Heritage Mission, striving to preserve the country’s vast cinematic heritage

In a country that thrives on and lives off films, there is an urgent need also to preserve and document them. The National Film Archive of India (NFAI) announced a National Film Heritage Mission (NFHM) last year that is now picking up speed with regional film industries all over the country pitching in their perspectives. It is not going to be an easy task to digitise and restore more than 1,000 feature films and 1,000 short films across Indian languages over the next five years.

Film historians in each region have been roped in to help lay down criteria for films to be chosen for this project and recommend films across time periods for this Mission – all this at a cost of Rs. 600 crore over the next five years.

In Bengaluru recently to meet with the representatives of the Kannada film industry, Prakash Magdum, director of the NFAI, told MetroPlus that successful meetings have been held in Mumbai and Chennai already. Post Bengaluru, the meeting moved to Thiruvananthapuram, and will further travel to Kolkata, Guwahati, and Delhi.

The idea is to make the several regional film industries in the country aware of the NFHM. “We want to consult and take suggestions from various film industries across three stakeholders -- producers and production houses which are content owners; film historians and experts; film processing laboratories,” says Magdum.

In Mumbai there was great response from the likes of Subhash Ghai, Ramesh Sippy, veteran filmmaker Shyam Shroff, Kiran Shantaram (chairman of V. Shantaram foundation and head of Asian Film Foundation). In Chennai too, AVM Productions and Prasad Labs responded, along with trade bodies like the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce.

We are running out of time

“We are willing to take in material on all possible formats – pneumatic tape, VHS, because we believe having something is better than having nothing and the concern is that we are running out of time. Film is perishable chemical material. We need to join hands because it is our collective common heritage. We are also seeking non-film material – posters, song booklets, still photographs, lobby cards – valuable sources of information about the film. We appeal to film lovers, individual collectors, organisations to please deposit materials with us to preserve for posterity. We even have a scheme – if you have posters/stills especially material from the pre-50s and 60s – we have arrangements to pay people who give us the material.” (Check for details).

Social media helping a great deal

A month ago NFAI got 1,800 song booklets from an individual collector in Mumbai, of the Hindi film industry from 1943 onwards. “When we put it on Facebook, we got a response from someone in Kolkata saying ‘I have something similar, how do I reach it to you?’.” Social media is helping the NFAI big time in this effort. “Access is important – specially FB and Twitter – where we are celebrating our stars with their posters/stills from our archives. In just a few months we have 25,000 ‘likes’ on FB. We want to make this more interactive.”

The NFAI, looking at the larger picture, is also conducting workshops. “We want skilled personnel in the field of film preservation. We had a successful 10-day workshop in February this year with the Film Heritage Foundation (an NPO set up by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur) where 17 international experts and 60 Indians participated. Naseeruddin Shah and Kamal Hassan were present. We are in talks with Universities; we can collaborate to have short term courses in film preservation.”

Tracing rare archival material

The NFAI will also assess their own collection of films for their physical condition, segregate them as per quality, and take preventive measures, so that the life of “film on film” can be prolonged. “Archiving is not just about digitisation; that would just be saving it in another format. It has been proven that ‘film on film’ stays longer than the digital medium. With digitisation you have to migrate it every few years (to newer formats), which leads to data loss and cumulative costs. But if you take care of film in ideal conditions, ‘film on film’ can last a 100 years,” stresses Magdum.

Places outside Pune are being explored to create a backup of the archives – a standard international practise to have it in two geographical locations. They are also working to make the NFAI database accessible to film researchers and film lovers online.

Tracing rare archival value film footage is key, stresses Magdum. “We believe we should have it in one single place. We have been asking content owners, right holders to deposit materials with us.” But are people willing to part with what they have? “Yes, because slowly, awareness of film preservation is building up in the country. We have increased our outreach. Also film processing labs used to store films; now with most shutting down, the material is coming to us.”

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 1:00:38 PM |

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