Safeguarding India's cinematic heritage

Film restoration

Nothing goes waste. Be it an old cinema ticket or a poster; a pamphlet or a lobby card; still photographs or even a movie costume — each holds importance in its own way. Anything related to Indian cinema — filmic or non-filmic — reflects its glorious heritage. Therefore, preservation and archiving these things becomes important for posterity and future references.

Though the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) has been safeguarding this heritage since several decades, most of the silent era films were lost by the time it was established. Also, in a mishap in 2003, many of the valuable earliest productions were reduced to ashes. After that, the Indian government also took initiative for preservation and restoration Indian films.

To teach people more about this concept, create awareness about the colossal loss of our film heritage and highlight the urgent need to start a movement to work towards preserving, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, filmmaker and founder of Film Heritage Foundation (FHF), initiated a workshop ‘Film Preservation and Restoration Workshop India’ (FPRWI) in 2015 along with Viacom 18. Bollywood veterans like Amitabh Bachchan and Naseeruddin Shah have supported it.The initiative is not just about preserving Hindi cinema, but also all Indian movies made in any part of the country, along with some important historical films owned by the government.

“Films don’t live in us, we live in films. These are the reflections of our past that will shine in the future. Unless we know where we come from, we will never know where to go. So by preserving cinematic information, we are preserving the human race, its culture and memories of lifetime,” Dungarpur tells Metrolife.

After successful completion of FPRWI’s first edition, Dungarpur has now come up with its second edition (FPRWI 16) in association with NFAI, the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) and Viacom 18. This year, the workshop aims to build an indigenous resource of skilled archivists, who can be tapped in future archiving, by providing them training in film handling, conservation of photographs, restoration ethics, conservation of posters, disaster recovery, film storage strategies and sound technology among others.
“Film restoration and preservation is not looked upon as a career option in India, even though we are the largest producers of movies in the world. The requirement is to restore those historic elements, and unless we learn to conserve we will not be able to restore. Therefore, for this edition we tied up with all top institution working in this field and are trying to make people aware of the career scope this field provides, and train those who are interested in it,” avers the 46-year-old.

Curators from across the globe like Paolo Cherchi Usai, senior curator of George
Eastman Museum; Davide Pozzi, director of L'Immagine Ritrovata; Richard Wright, ex archive specialist of BBC Research; David Walsh, head of technical commission of FIAF will be coming down to impart and equip selected individuals with knowledge of the much-needed stream of film conservation. All participants
will be given FIAF-affiliated certificates by actor Kamal
Hassan and filmmaker Mani Ratnam.

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