Utpal Borpujari

May 24, 2010

Rs 660 crore National Film Heritage Mission to restore classics

By Utpal Borpujari

With the centenary of India’s film industry just three years away, the government is soon launching an ambitious National Film Heritage Mission (NFHM) with an initial corpus of Rs 660 crore to restore classics from the past.

The mission is being launched in the backdrop of the National Film Archives of India (NFAI) already having started restoring a number of classics, including Mrinal Sen’s Khandhar in association with Reliance Media Works, which has been just screened in the Classics section of the ongoing 63rd Cannes Film Festival.

The mission will encompass digitalisation, restoration and preservation of films now in custody of governments and private agencies across the country, many of them stored in unscientific conditions.

“The Planning Commission has already its in-principle approval to the mission, which will lead to acquiring of films and their preservation and restoration,” NFAI director Vijay Jadhav told Deccan Herald.

The mission comes at the most appropriate time, he says, as NFAI has already started restoration work on many rare films. “It is high time that we use latest technology to preserve our audio-visual heritage content, otherwise we will lose many of our precious films,” Jadhav says.

Ideally, he says, a film print needs to be assessed at least every alternate year to check its condition, and to decide on which ones need to be given preference in the restoration and digitalisation process.

“It is just like treating a disease at the very initial stage, not waiting for the condition of the patient to deteriorate so much that he ends up in the ICU. The restoration process likewise becomes more expensive and cumbersome if the condition of the print or the negative, as the case may be, is too bad. So it makes sense that we do that as early as possible,” says Jadhav.

Explaining how intricate the restoration and preservation process is, he says that the per minute costing of the process depends on various factors, such as the condition, gauge, duration, etc., of the print or a negative, and thus is different for every second film.

“We are working on a detailed project report on how to proceed with the film heritage mission work,” says Jadhav, adding that the work would also include preservation of film posters, song booklets and other film paraphernalia.

NFAI, formed in 1964, has only about 6,500 film titles in its vaults. “Even many National Award winning films are not with NFAI, because the producers in many cases do not send prints to us for preservation. Our plan is to at least get all National Award winners and Indian Panorama films for preservation at NFAI,” Jadhav says.

Last year, NFAI digitalized 148 films, of which prints of 48 were also restored. This year also, the target is to digitalise about 150 films.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 23-05-2010)


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