Shivendra Singh Dungarpur

F.: Santosh Thundiyil, K.U. Mohanan, Avik Mukhopadhyay, P.S. Vinod, H.M. Ramachandra, R.V. Ramani, Vikas Sivaraman, Mahesh Aney, Ranjan Palit, V. Gopinath. Mo.: Irene Dhar Malik. Mu.: Ram Sampath. Su: Mohandas. Int.: P.K. Nair, Krzysztof Zanussi, Lester James Peries, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Gulzar, U.R. Ananthamurthy, Kumar Shahani, Naseeruddin Shah, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mahesh Bhatt, Rashid Irani, Shabana Azmi, Girish Kasaravalli, Ketan Mehta. Prod.: Dungarpur Films 35mm. D.: 163’. 

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

The germ of an idea took shape in a casual conversation with fellow cinephiles discussing Mr P.K. Nair, wondering how he was coping with retirement. As a student at the Film Institute, Pune, I remembered Mr Nair as a shadowy figure in the darkened theatre, ever present at all screenings, scribbling industriously in a notebook by the light of a tiny torch – winding and unwinding reels of lm, shouting instructions to the projectionist and always, always watching films. We were all a little in awe of him and had to muster up the courage to climb the creak- ing wooden stairs to his of ce to request to watch a particular lm. He was the only person I knew who could tell you exactly in which reel of a lm a particular scene could be found.

On a trip to Pune, I arrived to nd that the Archive had been orphaned: rusting cans lying in the grass, thick cobwebs hanging from the shelves in the vaults and Mr Nair’s old office a junkyard. I thought about this remarkable man who had devoted his life to collecting these lms and I was determined that his legacy should not be forgotten.

Mr Nair’s fascination with cinema began as a child. He was a collector even then… collecting ticket stubs, lobby cards, even weighing machine tickets sporting pictures of the stars of the day. He grew up to be a great collector of films – and so the National Film Archive of India was born. Few are aware that 1700 silent films were made in India of which only 9 survive thanks to the efforts of Mr Nair. He travelled to remote parts of India in search of rare films. On one of these journeys he was able salvage all that was left of Dadasaheb Phalke’s films. The fact that Dadasaheb Phalke is recognized today as the father of Indian cinema is Mr Nair’s doing. He was truly democratic as an archivist trying to save any lm that he could get his hands on.

He has in uenced generations of filmmakers especially those of the Indian New Wave like Mani Kaul, Kumar Shahane, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, and most importantly John Abraham. As students, he gifted us the opportunity to watch films that otherwise we might never have had the chance to see. We found ourselves through these films that shaped our minds and made us aspire to be the next Tarkovsky, Fellini or Ray.

Many eminent members of the Indian film fraternity have come forward to speak about Mr Nair and his life’s work in the lm. They speak about the great respect they have for his encyclopedic memory for lms, his excitement to share a new film sometimes even at 6 am, and above all his passion for film.
As Mr Nair speaks, we see the history of Indian cinema unfold. What emerges is a portrait of a man so in love with cinema that even his family had to take a back- seat to his obsession. Mr Nair is not just the founder of the National Film Archive, but a living breathing museum of cinema. Even in retirement, he chooses to stay across the road from the Archive watching over his legacy. The fact that India has a cinematic heritage at all is the single- handed achievement of this man. There will be no one like him again.

Shivendra Singh Dungarpur

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