By Aditi Patwardhan. Posted on November 26, 2015
Film preservation & restoration is a thing of great importance. In fact, it wouldn't be wrong to say that it's almost as important as making new films, considering the dire need to restore the heritage of Indian cinema. The numbers from an article in Forbes India clearly underline the importance of preservation and restoration of cinema. It says, "At least 70 to 80 percent of the films made in India before 1950 are lost forever. The original reels are either missing or destroyed beyond repair. Of the 1,600 titles that date back to the silent era from 1899 to 1931, less than ten remain intact.
Only portions of one of India’s earliest films, Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra (1913), have been preserved because of NFAI founder P. K. Nair’s efforts. India’s first talkie, Alam Ara (1931), can never be retrieved as the nitrate negatives were sold for silver." While we are fortunate enough to boast of a century-long legacy of cinema, when it comes to film preservation, we haven't really done a fabulous job.
To fill this void, a passionate filmmaker and archivist, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur has started the Film Heritage Foundation in 2014 to lead the movement for restoration. Dungarpur, who collaborates closely with Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation's World Cinema Project and has persuaded the organisation to restore Uday Shankar’s Kalpana (1948) and Sri Lankan filmmaker Lester James Peries’ Nidhanya (1972), is also a patron of the British Film Institute and a member of the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna, the legendary film archive in Italy.
According to their official website, recognizing the urgent need to preserve India’s cinematic heritage, the foundation is dedicated to supporting the conservation, preservation, and restoration of the moving image and to develop interdisciplinary educational programs that will use film as an educational tool and create awareness about the language of cinema.
In 2012, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur made Celluloid Man, a film about India’s pioneering film archivist P.K. Nair, who, like a lone warrior fought on the archiving front for the entire nation. He might have started on his quest alone, but he surely has inspired a fresh generation of archivists like Dungarpur, who are keen on not only archiving the past but also to restore it to its best original form.
Collaborating with National film archive of India, the International Federation of Film Archives and Martin Scorsese's The Film Foundation's World Cinema Project, George Eastman Museum and L'Immagine Ritrovata, The Film Heritage Foundation is going to conduct The Film Preservation and Restoration Workshop India 2016 from 26th February to 6th March 2016 at the National Film Archive of India (NFAI), Pune. During this 10-day advanced course, which has been specially designed by David Walsh, head of the FIAF technical commission for Indian conditions, a special attention is to be paid to practical training in the current film preservation and restoration techniques and archival practices.
As the official website of The Film Heritage Foundation says, "The 10-day advanced course with a focus on practical training in current film preservation and restoration techniques and archival practices (is to be) conducted by leading archivists and restorers from preeminent international institutions." The workshop will be open to applicants from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Applications are to close on 11th January 2016. Application forms are available online on the following websites: