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‘Missing’ classics safe in vaults, says NFAI

The NFAI tweeted photos of the film reels being preserved in its vaults on Friday.

The NFAI tweeted photos of the film reels being preserved in its vaults on Friday.  

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Multiple copies available with archive, poor record-keeping in past led to discrepancy, say officials

Pune: The reels of classic films allegedly lost by the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) are in fact safe in its state-of-the art vaults, officials from the archive said on Friday.

A series of articles, which appeared in a prominent English daily based on RTI queries, had alleged that several reels, which included films by cinematic legends, were missing.

The organisation on Friday posted photos of the film reels being preserved in its vaults on its Twitter and Facebook pages, with Santosh Ajmera, officer on special duty, NFAI, tweeting about the news reports: “it’s factually incorrect. Correct version is already in the public domain. There r multiple copies available in NFAI.”

NFAI director Prakash Magdum told The Hindu, “We have all the classics of Satyajit Ray, Akira Kurosawa and rare footage like Gandhi’s visit to Paris in our collection. In fact, some of the classics reported to be missing, like Mrinal Sen’s Bhuvan Shome and Guru Dutt’s Kaagaz Ke Phool, have been digitised and restored by us.”

Record-keeping was never given priority over the years at NFAI, and therefore there are discrepancies, he said.

One of the reports said that 14,900 reels of more than 1,000 “rare and precious cinema” titles lay rotting in gunny bags inside the NFAI’s Kothrud premises. However, NFAI records accessed by the Hindu revealed that most of these reels comprise not classics, but titles like Aunty No. 1, LoC Kargil, Julie, Veeru Dada and Rog.

An official, requesting anonymity, said the archive obtained these reels, often in decayed condition, from the Railways.

Ujjwal Nirgudkar, technical expert, on the National Film Heritage Mission, said, “Very often, distributors want to dispose of reels of a film once its commercial run is over. So they typically send these reels under fake receipt addresses by rail. As there is no one to claim them, the reels make their way to the Railway godowns.”

In fact, the NFAI team identified the 14,900 reels in a bid to free space in the archives.

Meanwhile, filmmakers like Jahnu Baruah, Adoor Gopalkrishnan and Jabbar Patel lauded the NFAI’s conservation efforts, saying that the news reports reflected past problems and that remedial steps were already being taken by the current team.

“It is very sad that the reality has been grossly misrepresented. It is demeaning to the efforts of the NFAI team, who are working round-the-clock to strive for the preservation of India’s cinematic heritage. This is especially unfortunate at a time when the culture of archiving has only recently picked up in the country and the NFAI is performing yeoman service in conserving films,” Mr. Baruah said.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 12:32:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/missing-classics-safe-in-vaults-says-nfai/article19694544.ece

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