PK Nair: The reel chronicler

PK Nair: The reel chronicler
Highlights

PK Nair: The reel chronicler, Celluloid Man, Shivendra Dungarpur, PK Nair, Arrival of the Train. The documentary feature film “Celluloid Man” by Shivendra Dungarpur was screened at Prasads Preview Theatre as part of celebrations of 100 years of Cinema curated by Moving Images.

The documentary feature film “Celluloid Man” by Shivendra Dungarpur was screened at Prasads Preview Theatre as part of celebrations of 100 years of Cinema curated by Moving Images. The documentary focuses on PK Nair’s long career in the film archives from the infancy to becoming one of the world’s biggest collections of Cinema (12,000 plus films, 8,000 Indian and 4,000 foreign films)

It is not the people in the past who have done great deeds that make up history but the silent observers striving to record and preserve those moments. Archiving turns a piece of the past into a legacy for the future generations to know and re-live. PK Nair through his relentless zealous dedication to films built the film archives from ground up. He has been the flag bearer on the bastion keeping the cultural spirit of cinema alive. Exposing pupils at FTII to world cinema he became the source of inspiration for scores of film makers, artists and technicians.

We take motion pictures for granted but imagine the uproar “Arrival of the Train” (1895) would have generated in the audience. A moving picture latter augmented by sound followed but the motion picture had changed the way imagination could be given shape. British film Institute began film archiving in 1935 and it took us another 3 decades to begin NFAI in 1964. At the forefront of Indian film archiving was the driving force of PK Nair, a visionary who understood the magnitude of impact it would lead to. Preserving motion pictures has immense cultural, anthropological, philosophical and historical significance.

The documentary feature film “Celluloid Man” by Shivendra Dungarpur was screened at Prasads Preview Theatre as part of celebrations of 100 years of Cinema curated by Moving Images. The documentary focuses on PK Nair’s long career in the film archives from the infancy to becoming one of the world’s biggest collections of Cinema (12,000 plus films, 8,000 Indian and 4,000 foreign films). PK Nair’s work with NFAI is drawn as parallel to Henri Longlois’s Cinémathèque. He was a meticulous man working relentlessly to acquiring, preserving and promoting of films. He spent hours in the theatre viewing, cataloguing and detailing hundreds and thousands of films from pan India bolstering the diversity and depth of films in the archives.

It is due to his diligence that some of the earliest films of enormous historical significance including Dadasaheb Phalke’s first creations have been retrieved and saved in the archives. Any information on an old reel film, even if it were just bits and pieces, he would rush to the corners of the country to the remotest locations to retrieve them. He scoured the old studios, ware houses, storage houses and junk or scrap dealers collected all reels he could lay his hands on. He did loads of research into the regional film history, gathered knowledge and people who worked on the original productions and restored the reels the best way possible.

Lester James, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Gulzar, Naseeruddin Shah, Mahesh Bhatt, Yash Chopra, Kamal Hassan, Shabana Azme, Raj Kumar Hirani, Jaya Bachan, Balu Mahendra, Shyam Benegal and others spoke in the documentary about how archiving needs to be accorded its due precedence as a historical endeavor. PK Nair’s efforts to gather and preserve many lost integral pieces of Indian films should not be made in wane.

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