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NFAI acquires collection of 2,200 documentaries, shorts shot in 16mm

Acquired from the State Institute for Audio-Visual Education (Maharashtra), Pune, many of the films are in a sorry state, but efforts are being made to restore and preserve them.

Photo: Twitter/NFAI


Some very rare short films and documentaries shot in 16mm featuring top politicians, artistes, singers and other prominent personalities have been discovered in a 2,200-strong collection acquired by the National Film Archives of India (NFAI), a top official said in Pune on Wednesday (5 December).

Acquired from the State Institute for Audio-Visual Education (Maharashtra), Pune, many of the films are in a sorry state, but efforts are being made to restore and preserve them for posterity, said NFAI director Prakash Magdum.

The celluloid collection comprises short films/documentaries on history, music, science, education, culture, development and even an international collection of a bygone era, many of which will see the light of day for the first time.

"Given the large volume, we are previewing these films in a phased manner. There could be some very important films, but many of them are in a critical condition. We will make all efforts to save and preserve them," said Magdum.

One of the rare 30-minute documentary films is on the Raja Kelkar Museum, Pune, made in the 1950s, directed by Roy Kinikar in colour, depicting GV Mavlankar, the first speaker of the Lok Sabha and then union PWD and commerce minister Narhar Vishnu alias Kakasaheb Gadgil, besides then Pune commissioner SG Barve, visiting the museum along with the Kelkar family.

One film has soundtracks of the legendary Hindustani classical singer Hirabai Barodekar and his sister Saraswati Rane, along with a pakhwaj recital by Pandit Govindbuva Burhanpurkar, which were used in an experimental film, Lalat (1947), by director Raja Nene.

In a radical experiment, Nene attempted to picture melody music and used 16mm format to score the soundtracks, which was an innovative concept in that era. Incidentally, 2018 is the birth centenary of film producer PR Bhide who produced another landmark film Vande-Mataram (1948), with the legendary couple PL Deshpande and his wife Sunita in the lead roles.

Magdum said another 15-minute film found is Kavincha Kavi Keshavsut, a tribute to the renowned poet KK Damle aka Keshavsut on his birth centenary celebrations in 1966.

It was written by another great, PK Atre, and directed by Balkrishna Kulkarni and comprises some rare songs composed and sung by the late Sudhir Phadke, whose birth centenary is being celebrated this year.

Two biopics on the great philosopher, freedom fighter and yoga master Sri Aurobindo, produced by Tarachand Barjatya and directed by Phani Majumdar under the Auro Films banner in the 1970s, depict various activities of the Aurobindo ashram in Pondicherry and its co-founder, Mirra Alfassa, referred to as The Mother.

There is V Shantaram's rare film Sangeet Bharat chronicling various cultural songs and dances popular in Maharashtra, said Magdum.

A couple of films are dedicated to developmental works undertaken during the first two Five Year Plans — which laid the foundations of India's development — and shot in Pune, Solapur, Ahmednagar, Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur.

These films contain unseen visuals of various initiatives in education, sports, agriculture, cooperation movement, adult education, health, etc in these six districts, besides archival footage of major local landmarks and of the legendary Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil, who founded Asia's first cooperative sugar mill in Loni, Ahmednagar, and served as a union minister.

There are documentaries on Tanjore - The Cultural Capital, procuded by Projection of India Pictures, shot and edited by R Sundaram - another film directed by the veteran Kamalakar Torne with the lead pair of Suryakant and Mai Bhide, along with Master Vitthal and comedian Ganpat Patil.

An educational film on road safety, Savdhan, by Geeta Films and directed by the renowned Ram Gabale contains street visuals of old Mumbai and Pune.

Writers & Poets of Gujarat (1978) are twin films in the collection featuring top Gujarati literary figures like Umakant Joshi, Pannalal Patel and Balmukund Dave, and were directed by Vasant Joshi.

On international topics, there are several travelogue-style films concerning people-culture of various countries including Japan, Russia, Norway, West Indies, Great Britain, and one on Life in Sahara and another from Canada how children learnt from film strips.

Besides the films produced by the Films Division and Children's Film Society of India, there are many other films made by the Maharashtra government, some are commissioned and others acquired from different international sources as tools to impart audio-visual training to teachers.