Having visited the ‘National Film Archive of India’ in Pune, as a mass-media/film appreciation student, I was one of the privileged few who got an opportunity to see rare footage from iconic classics made over 50 years ago! Scenes from India’s very first film ‘Raja Harischandra‘, a silent movie made by Dadasaheb Phalke in 1913 were also screened for us.
Filmmaker Shivendra Singh Dungarpur through his documentary ‘Celluloid man’ acknowledges archivist PK Nair, who collected these masterpieces single-handedly and formed the NFAI. The National Award-winning film is a tribute to the man, who preserved the cinematic heritage of the Indian film industry for decades.
The film is a comprehensive coverage of Nair’s extraordinary life journey.From Trivandrum to film studios in Mumbai to finally ending up as a film collector in Pune, from an aspiring filmmaker to a strict archivist, various facets of his life have been captured beautifully.
The film shows Nair recalling various memorable moments of his life like why he watched most films backwards, how he collected Phalke’s films’ reels personally from his house in Nashik and other reels from junkshops. Why he never threw anything, from movie tickets to weight tickets (for they had actors’ face on it), his passion for cinema knows no bounds.
Noted film personalities like Jaya Bachchan, Shyam Benegal, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Raju Hirani, Gulzar, Mrinal Sen to name a few speak of their association with the film custodian, which makes the documentary more interesting. We found Naseeruddin Shah and Sitara Devi’s quotes the best though. Naseer confesses how it was Nair who introduced him to world cinema.
The major portion of the film also stresses on how ‘archiving’ is not considered important by filmmakers and government alike, as reels are dumped, left unattended for years. Few have even caught fire in the past.
Films mean much more to Nair than entertainment. “I understand the world and people better through cinema” says he. If you feel the same, don’t miss out on this one.
This documentary is the life-story of legendary film archivist PK Nair.
The Times of India