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)


January 4, 2010

‘The French are very curious about Indian cinema’

Serge Toubiana is currently the Director General of La Cinematheque Francaise, France government’s official body to look after the country’s film industry and its ties with other cinema industries abroad. Recently in India to participate in a festival of French films commemorating the Golden Jubilee of the French New Wave, Toubiana is eager to have increased collaborations between the film industries of India and France. He is particularly eager to restore works by masters like Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen, which are facing extinction because of decaying negatives or deteriorating print quality. Apart from that, he also wants to organize a big Indian film festival in France, in the lines of one organised by his organisation in the early 1990s, but reflecting the changing face of Indian cinema in recent years. Toubiana speaks with Deccan Herald’s Utpal Borpujari on what is in his mind:

India and France are having increased interaction cinematically. What do you think La Cinematheque Francaise can actually do in this regard?

We would definitely like to organise a tribute to Ritwik Ghatak in France. But prints of his films need restoration, and we would like to participate in the restoration process. Otherwise, they will be lost treasures. Cinematheque Fraicaise could support whoever takes up the work.

In 2008, Cannes Film Festival wanted to have a retrospective of Mrinal Sen, but could not do it because no good prints of many of his films were available. Would you be interested in restoring films by other such maestros too?

Thomson Foundation of France is interested in restoring Ghatak’s movies. We can discuss about other ideas too. We can also partner Indian outfits like the National Film Archives of India which want to restore Indian films. We would also like to restore Mrinal Sen films too, and it would interesting to organise Mrinal Sen retrospective also in France .

How much is the interest about Indian films in France?

In the early 1990s, Cinematheque Francaise had organised  a large programme dedicated to Indian cinema. About 100 movies were shown in that and the Indian delegation was very strong. For French people, Satyajit Ray, Ghatak, Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan are among the big Indian names. I would like to think about a new tribute to Indian cinema at the new building of the Cinematheque in east of Paris, which has three theatres, a big space for exhibition and a library. We would like to have a Ghatak retrospective in 2010, and also find another project focused in India. There was a big Bollywood festival sometime back in Paris and it was a big success. The French are very curious to watch Indian cinema. We could also have a Ray retrospective because it has been a long time since we had one. Ideas like the ongoing Bonjour India festival help in understanding each other. With Namaste France festival next year, it is time to have something in France about Indian cinema.

In recent years, French cinema has become more visible in India through festivals and even limited theatrical releases. How do you think French films could become more visible here?

French cinema is very diverse. But the problem is the language. French is not as universal as English is. Films like Un Prophete by Jacques Audiard, which is France’s entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar this year could be very successful in India. It is a film that can travel to all parts of the world.

Do you follow Indian films?

Honestly no, because the Cinematheque work is keeping me busy, but I would like to explore. We need to have some projects together, because Indian cinema is huge and Cinematheque can help in restoration, finding DVD distributors and so on.

What was the idea behind the festival commemorating 50 years of the French New Wave?

We had decided to restore some classics like Pierre le Fou and we got support from a French-American joint fund. It is time we gave tribute to New Wave. The young generation has heard about Godard, Truffaut, but has not seen their films as well as of many others. It was a very strong moment in French cinema. It was very polemic – some loved those films, some hated. Today’s generation needs to get to watch these films. Pierre le Fou changed my life as it was so different among all the work made in those times. It taught me to watch movies differently. That is why I wanted to get it restored. It showed that it was possible to make films out of the system, in small budgets, with new actors, new cameras, and with more freedom. I spoke with Martine Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, and they told me they discovered these movies as students, and for them too it was very important as these movies taught them that it is possible to make such movies. It was a period of history of cinema that is very interesting. I think now we are in the same situation. Cinema is strong, but nothing as compared to TV and video games. Cinema has to invent a new language. We probably need a new New Wave.

(An Abridged Version was published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 03-01-2010)


Blog at WordPress.com.