Lauren Bacall in To Have And Have Not: A Memory


This blog was written for the blogathon at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Check out the other more interesting and more authoritative blogs here. Also check out the hostess’ blog of interesting Classic Hollywood times.

To Have and Have Not was adapted from a novel written by novelist Ernest Hemingway. However, not much of the novel made it to the movie despite the fact that Hemingway himself worked on the screenplay, along with William Faulkner and many others. There are some elements of Hemingway in it, as such the theme of World War, a bold female protagonist and a sort of “stuck” male protagonist. And although the film is categorised as a “noir” film, the romance is still central to it.bacall2

When I was growing up one of the first movies that got me interested in Hollywood classics was “To Have and Have Not” (it started with accidently watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s,). When I was done watching the movie I was very curious about this actress whom I didn’t know, (since this played on TV and I had missed the credits, and there was no Google). I was growing up on the Bollywood staples of the 80s (did any good come out of the 80s, anywhere?) where the chaste heroine was different than the vamp. She could be flirtatious, but anything even mildly sensual was to cross the line. And here was this woman saying what she wanted to but with such an air of dignity. Years later, I discovered that was Lauren Bacall!

And I am still as stunned by the line, “you know how to whistle, don’t you?” as I was those 10-15 years ago. Frankly, I did not know what to make of it, the fumbly early teens that I was in. Then a few days later I saw an advertise that said, “Anything more would be a suggestion.” And it reminded me of this scene.

Even if I were to compare her with the Hollywood actresses I had watched at that time, she still stood out. I think each of the actors have to bring an image with them to stand out. So there was the gentle but strong Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn who was a bit of a man, very gorgeous but I mean the personality and Ingrid Bergman who was the resilient, silent girl, who spoke more with eyes.

bacall smoke

And there was this actress with her feline charm, who looks very believable to have snuck on Harry. Who makes her presence felt if she wishes to but can be invisible if she wishes to. She does what she wishes to but is not manipulative.

The sensuality in To Have and Have Not can also be credited to the presence of Humphrey Bogart who she was in love with and later married. It is said that it was love at first, and the chemistry is visible between the two actors. Bogart was a much senior actor and yet Bacall, the rapport aside manages to keep the audience’s eyes glued to her.

She even has a different name, Slim, (actually Marie Browning,) which makes her feel — not beautiful, or so she says. She tries every way to get Harry to help her, moves that surprise Harry’s down-to-earth demeanour.

But even as she does all this and stuns you with her boldness, you can feel the vulnerability that lies just under the surface. When Harry cancels the plans of dropping the activists, she is naive enough to think Harry did that for her.

However, she does not ever get into damsel-in-distress mode, but is present enough for people to respond to her with kindness. And after all why not? When Eddie, the sailor, who keeps asking everyone, “Have you ever been bitten by a bee?” she is the only one who one asks him if he ever has. She brings to the character empathy and a rare sense of humour.

Despite her obvious helplessness of being stuck on the island due to lack of money, she gets along well due to her charm and worldly wisdom. She sings with Cricket (Gemini Cricket?) in a silly voice and then grabs the wallet from Johnson, which is only noticed by Harry. As an actress her job was to let us know that Slim was someone who had hardened up due to her circumstances, yet she has lost neither her pride nor her humour.

To Have and Have Not was launch vehicle for this actress and she made sure that she was noticed.

This was her debut feature film and she went on to act in many more movies where brought just as many nuances to the role as she did in this one when she was only 19. Whatever her age, she continued to bring her charm and vivaciousness to the role till her ripe age.

Announcing the Criterion Blogathon

The wow event in November schedule!

Criterion Close-Up

Criterion Collection animated gif

We are pleased to announce the first annual Criterion Blogathon!

The blogathon will take place November November 16th to 21st, and I have the pleasure of co-hosting with two of my favorite bloggers and favorite people: Kristina from Speakeasy and Ruth from Silver Screenings. This is not their first rodeo, as they’ve hosted numerous fantastic Blogathons. Earlier this year they hosted the Great Villain Blogathon and the Beach Party Bash Blogathon. What’s great about these two is that they turn these Blogathons into events, which is what we are planning for November.

Just last year, The Criterion Collection celebrated their 30th anniversary. That’s an amazing accomplishment for a physical media label. They began with laserdiscs, transitioned to DVDs, and now are the top boutique label for Blu-Ray/DVD. They have established credibility with their film choices, ranging from mainstream classics to some of the best art films the world…

View original post 504 more words

Lionel Barrymore Legacy: The Bells

This blogpost was written for the Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon. I had great fun discovering this great legend, Lionel Barrymore, for the same. Go ahead and read many more fantastic blogs there!220px-Lionel_Barrymore

At the peak of the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century, Cinema made its grand entrance and stunned all. Although cinema itself was yet shades of grey, it was in contrast with the gory grey-ness of the Industrial Age. It showed the potential of expression and story-telling, and no wonder this potential was experimented with and exploited from the very beginning.

The first “moving images” were invented in France but America, more precisely Hollywood became the centre for Cinema and its glamour, producing legends from the very beginning. The Barrymore Legacy in Hollywood is a long and enduring one, establishing strong roots at the very dawn of Cinema. Lionel Barrymore’s legacy is one such. It was perhaps expected that those with a strong presence in the theatre were to be drawn to this new audio-visual medium called Cinema. And Barrymore, whose parents were prominent stage actors on Broadway and elsewhere, followed their footsteps first on the stage and then to Cinema.

Although there are many movies worth exploring, I would like to explore Lionel Barrymore’s silent era movie, The Bells.

lionel barrymore the bells edgar allan poe james young

Mathias is an ambitious man who owns several businesses. Despite this he has to ask for a loan from his neighbour, Frantz. This is because Mathias intends to become a Burgomaster, (a word for Mayor, possibly drawn from the word “burrough” for a town). This ambition makes Mathias give credit to many people who come asking. His wife, Catharine is worried about the loan and keeps nagging him. Franz also does not make it very easy for Mathias and taunts him often, and ultimately proposes marriage with Mathias’ daughter. Mathias is not eager about the alliance due to various factors. This worry leads to Mathias ultimately murdering a man. (It should be noted that Barrymore already had the peeved expression that became his trademark in the movies.)

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Bells

 Hear the loud alarum bells--
                  Brazen bells!
What tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
       In the startled ear of night
       How they scream out their affright!
         Too much horrified to speak,
         They can only shriek, shriek,
                  Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire

The beginning of the movie informs us that The Bells was adapted from a stage play. But if the movie posters are to be believed it is inspired by a poem by master story teller and horror expert, Edgar Allen Poe. Although till that point Christmas poems were about merriment and jolly Poe’s poem is about The movie uses the recurring theme of “bells” from Poe’s poem as the motif for the haunting. A “jangling discordant accusation” as the movie puts it. Similar to the poem, the movie also proceeds from the silver bells of Christmas to the golden bells of a wedding whilst carrying the strain of its third stanza throughout the later half of the movie. The movie ends with the Iron Bell of law and public shame.

Macbethan Guilt

lionel barrymore polish jew ghostIt is aftermath of the murder that the movie examines. Mathias’ state of mind is Macbethan. Shakespeare’s villains might have had their soliloquies to express their turmoil to their audience but in a silent era movie, the weapon an actor has is his face and Barrymore brings alive the haunting.

Mathias’ worry is less about getting caught, it is about dealing with his conscience. Ultimately, Mathias becomes a Burgomaster but his secret murder haunts him. Mathias who looks like a rational man is terrified to look into the eyes of the fortune teller, not for the belief in fortune telling but for the fear of what his countenance might betray. (Side Note: Boris Karloff’s piercing stare can make any person see evil in themselves that they did not know existed within them. :)) He suffers from constant guilt, hallucinating about the man he murdered, and the sound of the bells he carried.

The Christmas Theme

The Bells is one of the many Christmas-themed movies that Barrymore did. It is during the Christmas Eve that the fateful murder occurs. The bearded man Mathias murders comes in a carriage, wears a belt made of jingle bells and bears gold coins on him, much like Santa.  But the Santa here is a Polish Jew. What Mathias kills is perhaps is the Christmas spirit.

Compare this with other Christmas movies such as Barrymore’s movies, where the arrival of the Christmas spirit changes things for good. Even Scrooge’s miserly heart in the Christmas Carol is offered a second chance. But no such luck for Mathias, he must suffer. The director clearly takes a moral stand here without any moral ambiguity. Although Mathias suffers in the purgatory hell of his mind, in the end he is not granted redemption, or a second chance of any sort, as after the mental torture he is punished by the law.

The greatest suffering is the one that cannot be put in words. Silent Era cinema turned what was a setback of not having sound into a potential for exploring this human factor. The value for subtlety that is the essence of all great cinema can be attributed to the Silent Era and those who laid its foundation.


Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon Review

rashomon criterion poster

I am beginning the first movie of the 365Days365Classics, and it is obvious to me why I chose this movie as my first classic. This was the first world classic I ever watched, and I was so instantly drawn to this movie. I thought if I really listened I would even understand the language. I took the sound of the rain with me to sleep.

This is the essence, perhaps, of all great art, that we feel we are part of the culture, like someone who was born in it. Even if you have no context of the culture, Rashomon’s atmospheric settings will transport you to the place. Here are my thoughts on this great work of Cinema.

The Setting

In the making of the movie, Kurosawa draws from two sources, two short stories, “Rashomon,” for the setting  and another, “In a Grove” for its plot. The story about the murder of a samurai unfolds as many accused and eyewitnesses present their testimony.

The word Rashomon, (spelled and pronounced variously,) means “city gates”. That is the first shot you see in the movie, the gate with Rashomon written in it in Kanji, and is an actual location in the Japanese city of Kyoto. Rashōmon was the grander of the two city gates built during the Heian Period (794–1185).

rashomon gate

These grand architectural sites ruined with the kingdom and became a place for the less classy folks to hang out. Although no time is specified, one can suppose this is during the times that Japan was still a feudal state, perhaps somewhere in the beginning of the twelth century. 

The Camera

Cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa’s camera work can be a lesson in cinematic grammar. Even if your understanding of setting a shot is limited (like me,) you can feel the brevity in composing the frame. And given that he had a great set of actors to work with, the camera exploits each and every fleeting expression. Unlike the current fascination to portray the human body as shiny porcelain perfect, Miyagawa’s camera reflects real people with pores, with tendrils around the face that light up when they catch the sun. 

rashomon samurai wife hands on face

samurai rashomon


And it is Kurosawa’s genius that the setting becomes a character in the movie.The sound of the persistent gloomy, Hemingway-ish rain – and the silent heat of the groves set a contrasting temperament to the story.

The Characters

Rashomon, the movie, is a game of perspectives. It is also a play of politics.  The men in the story are two opposites of the society. This age-old conflict is played out more vigorously in a society where you were “born” to be one or the other. And as is the truth, one is always afraid it might lose out the privilege. One of the privileges is the woman.

The other extreme of the society has nothing to lose, but as history proves these classes have suffered mostly because of the upper classes. Tajomaru, the bandit, is not the kinds who would meditate on such things but when a circumstance arises he feels a rage in him which can be attributed to, amongst many things, the class politics.

The thug on the streets believes he possesses the macho, so what is potentially an act of rape is interpreted by him as an act of seduction. What must have despair on the part of the woman is interpreted as longing by the samurai, who perhaps thinks his wife might find his silent, cosy life, to be boring.

It is important to note that even those on the fringes of the society or less powerful ones have the capacity to influence the decision in the murder case.

Fall of the Woman

No matter how culturally different we might be, there are some themes that remain consistent in all cultures. One of them is the archetype of the fall of a woman. This story is set in a feudal society with rigid social roles but instead of making it a morality play, Kurosawa puts his characters in the real world and lets his characters engage in a psychological warfare. Although, the duel is fought between the two men, the woman fuels it in her own way. Considering this is a story of clashing perspectives, no clear image of the woman’s character emerges. This ambiguity is true to the world, and as a realistic filmmaker, Kurosawa manages to make the woman more human.

The film can be summed up from the quote from the movie itself, – “It human to lie. Most of the time we cannot be honest even to ourselves.” Rashomon is one of the best portrayals of human follies and the idea of subjectivity. It is a classic one should not miss.

Some beautiful posters

Japanese poster

Japanese poster

The German Poster

The German Poster

From Gods to Matinee Idols – Story of India’s First Feature

Thank you so much to Fritzi, Aurora and Ruth for hosting the Classic Movie History Blogathon. This was fun, and hopefully they will host it again. Go check the link, there are many interesting blogposts there on the Silent Era movies! I know I will!

It is not a wonder that the movie-making industry in India took off as soon as the concept of filming was introduced. We love stories! India has a long tradition of keeping stories alive through the Written Narratives and the Oral Culture that predates it. The learned as well as the regular folks everyone knew their stories. And if there was a chance to put it a magic box and reproduce it time and after time, who would say no?


Traditional Kathakali performance of the Epics

But in a country that is decidedly different, the themes of the movies may be predictable but the journey of film-making is very interesting, to say the least.

The Lumiere Brothers had their first show in London in 1895, and a year later in India in erstwhile Bombay. Almost immediately there was a burst in trend of making reels. Enthusiastic photographers from all over India experimented with this new concept of “pictures in motion”. But it was mere chronicling of events, the vision to use filmmaking for storytelling was acquired more than a decade later.

Dadasaheb Phalke: the man who made the first Indian movie and almost went blind for it.

Dadasaheb_PhalkeA full length film called “Shree Pundalik” was first made in 1912 by a person called Dadasaheb Torne but it was not qualified as a feature film as it was a mere recording of a play. The credit for making the first Indian feature film goes to Dadasaheb Phalke.

He must have been too odd a person for the Indian society, where the institution of family was too sacred and a man had to be a breadwinner. Phalke dabbled in different businesses, (amongst them, printing and photography, none of which took off,) before he discovered his love for cinema, all the while his family’s finances ruined due to these varied fascinations.

When he finally saw his first movie (Resurrection of Christ) it must have seemed like he found his destiny. He worked at the various places where they were showcasing the new concept of cinema, learning the craft from the British reelmakers. He would sit at the theatres even after everyone had left and spent so much time looking at each and every frame, that he almost went blind.

Once he learned the craft he didn’t dabble into the reels, unlike his contemporaries, his instinct was to make a feature film. He was so determined that he sold most of his belongings and went to London to get trained and buy the equipments. It was certainly an audacious act in a colonial India for a middle class person to attempt such a venture.

Epic Win! Family Comes to Rescue


Once he had trained and acquired his film-making equipments, Phalke’s next challenge was to train people to make his first movie. The thing is, there were many British and Indian film makers, and there were foreign collaborators that were making big budget movies outside India already, but considering Phalke’s budget, he was better off training people himself rather than hiring them.

Literally, his family members, including his kids were involved in all parts of film-making. Phalke started working on the script for Raja Harishchandra as soon as he was back from London. He set up a studio, sets were designed by extended family members or friends. Costumes were locally bought and stitched at home. Despite all these challenges the movie’s schedule from start to finish is less than eight months. And yet when the film was finally ready there is thorough professionalism, and intense hard work, and no suggestion of any stopgap arrangements.

Casting the actresses

This may have resulted in modern folks thinking women were not that beautiful back in the day!

This may have resulted in modern folks thinking women were not that beautiful back in the day!

Perhaps even Phalke did not anticipate this but he could not get a single woman to work in his movie. He even went to prostitutes who got very upset at his audacity to cast them in a movie that could be seen by thousands of people. Ultimately, he had to cast men to act the female roles.

A Media Plan Worthy of a Big Corporate

publicity poster raja harishchandraOne of the reasons Indian film industry grew so popular was because the seeds for publicity were laid with the first film itself. Phalke distributed a lot of promotional material for the film. They were distributed on trains and buses. Films being a novelty were costly and were attended by an elite audience in plush theatres. Phalke changed it, he sold tickets cheap and pulled in the crowds. The theme being a tale from Indian mythologies, it had an instant connect with audience. But the work did not influence just the Indian crowd, the movie was shown in London the following year and had a decent enough run, for the studios there to propose Phalke to set his base in London.

That is how Phalke Brought God To The Masses

What Phalke (and the artist Raja Ravi Verma,) inadvertently did was start a social revolution. They brought the Gods to the masses. See till this point, the upper castes were the only people who had access to the God. Idol/Image worship was strictly not allowed. So, these movies where people could see the Gods acting out their stories, were nothing less than a miracle. People understood the concept of acting and filming, but the fact that someone could essay the roles of these Gods was what made the screen Gods into idols. The actors in this movie, and those in other mythologicals were very popular, although they may not have made much money.

Influence on the Modern Movies

Even if one doesn’t know anything about India, they know that Bollywood is India’s film industry. Phalke was instrumental in making Bombay, the capital of India’s film industry. He was inspiration to new and indie filmmakers, that a person with a vision can make success out of it. The many elements introduced by Phalke continue to influence the movie industry. For instance, the movies may have gotten bigger, sets may have become more extravagant, and they may not make mythologies anymore, but any business minded producer knows that “culture” will ensure a good deal of profit when played well!

2015 Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge

So I am enjoying writing my new blog, discovering so many classic film enthusiasts and participating in all the blogathons. So one of those blogathons I am looking forward to is this one, hosted by Raquel on her blog Out of the Past. Her blogathon named 2015 Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge, has these interesting features.

Here are the details:

Runs June 1st to September 1st, 2015
Open internationally!

Sign up for the challenge here.
Read a classic film book
Write a review and post it on your BLOG or Goodreads profile
Submit your review link here.
Repeat until you have read and reviewed 6 books!
Review 6 and be automatically entered to win a prize.

Go to the official summer reading page for full details including rules, entry forms, prize details, a challenge button and more.

Six books in three months. It’s not as difficult as it sounds! Aim for reading two books each month. Don’t procrastinate! Keep the two books a month pace or you’ll fall behind. You can do it. If you need some help, check out my 10 tips for getting in more classic film reading.

If you want to read fewer than six books, that’s okay too! Just set a goal that works for you. You can start reading and reviewing at any time, just make sure your reviews are up by September 1st.

If you do complete six books in the time frame given, you’ll be eligible for a prize! I’ll randomly select one person to receive the following prize pack:

Depending on the number of challenge finishers, I’ll plan on a runner-up prize too. Note the Maltin guide doesn’t come out until late September so the prize won’t ship until October.

Again, all the details about the challenge are on the dedicated page which can be accessed at the header of this blog. Good luck to all participants!

Film Preservation and Archiving – the India Story

filmheritage-logoThis post is for the Film Preservation Blogathon by Ferdie on Films. There are so many interesting entries, not surprising, since any film enthusiast would be eager to explore this gold.

We are only becoming aware of cinema as a legacy. Fortunately, Film Heritage Foundation, India, and its people, have been working tireless to preserve our legacy of films. We let you know more about their work through their own words. Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Director of FHF, was kind enough to give us a sneak into the Foundation’s work.

Q) What inspired you to start this foundation?

A) In a sense, I have been an archivist and collector since I was a child. It may have started with the conventional route of stamps and coins, but cinema has always been a passion. I am also an avid diarist – a habit that started from my school days when I used to make copious notes about films that I had seen including details of the cast and crew. Besides, being a student of history and coming from a family with a long lineage, I think the establishment of a foundation to preserve and restore India’s cinematic heritage was a natural progression of events in my life. However, the person who inspired me to start Film Heritage Foundation was Martin Scorsese who is one of the greatest evangelists for the cause of film preservation and whose organizations the Film Foundation and the World Cinema Project have restored over 600 films since their inception. Many of these films have been neglected gems that would have been forgotten and lost forever if not for the fantastic work done by these two organizations.

The other inspiration was Gianluca Farinelli (who has been referred to as the pope of restoration). I had read an interview in 2010 where Martin Scorsese talked about a festival of restored films called “Il Cinema Ritrovato” conducted by Cineteca di Bologna helmed by Gianluca Farinelli  and the fabulous restorations being done at the L’Immagine Ritrovata lab there. My interest was piqued and I decided to go for the festival and see for myself what he was talking about. That was really a turning point for me. I discovered a Mecca for film archivists and cinephiles where you immersed yourself watching beautifully restored gems of cinema for a week. I have been going back every year since. Interacting with archivists, film historians and cinephiles from all over the world, I soon realized that our country was lagging far behind. It was Jaya Bachchan who suggested that I started my own foundation  to preserve India’s cinematic legacy.

As a first step, to draw attention to the precarious condition of India’s classic films, our foundation curated an Indian retrospective, their first, at Il Cinema Ritrovato last year – “The Golden ‘50s: India’s Endangered Classics.” In February this year, Cineteca di Bologna. L’Immagine Ritrovata, the Film Foundation and FIAF collaborated with us in a pioneering educational initiative – India’s first Film Preservation and Restoration School India 2015. Recently, I was invited to be a member of the Il Cinema Ritrovato Artistic Committee and I hope to use this platform to highlight India’s rich and diverse film patrimony and the urgent need to save it for posterity.

fhf 1

Q) What are the challenges of running this project in a country like India, where movies are not necessarily viewed as heritage (compared to literature or Arts,) but merely as mass entertainment media? 

A) India is a cinema-loving nation that has the most prolific and diverse film industry in the world. Yet the government, the film industry and the public at large view film as a medium of mass entertainment. The government’s engagement with the film industry is restricted to taxation and censorship and the film industry focuses on the business of filmmaking and the box office. The fact is that every kind of film is an important visual document of its time and the result of a creative process, but unfortunately there are very 

few, including the film industry, who subscribe to this idea.  When filmmakers and producers themselves do not respect their creations or care about their works being preserved for posterity, we are fighting an uphill battle.

India does not have a culture of preservation. We often speak about our ancient civilization and culture, but we have always had a cavalier attitude to its preservation and restoration. When people are fighting for the preservation of monuments, music, dance and art forms that are centuries old, saving our cinematic heritage, just over a hundred years old, does not even rank as a cause in most people’s opinion. But there is no taking away from the fact that cinema is an amalgamation of all these art forms and is an art form itself that has a fragile existence.

There is a general lack of awareness about the need to preserve films on celluloid and the challenges of archiving films on digital formats.  There is a common misconception that if a film is available on Youtube, dvds or even beta tapes, that it is equivalent to preservation. In this scenario, getting the support of the government, industry stakeholders and the public at large both in terms of funding and otherwise can be difficult. But we have made a start and we are working on creating a movement  to save our cinematic heritage.

 Q) The FH foundation has received support from Martin Scorcese, how has that helped the foundation?

A) Just the fact that a filmmaker of Mr. Scorsese’s stature has endorsed Film Heritage Foundation by collaborating on the Film Preservation and Restoration School India 2015, gave our very young foundation credibility and help put us on the map internationally. Locally too it helped to generate interest both with the press and the film industry and started them thinking about preserving and restoring our films.

 Q) Your first movie, Celluloid Man, is about India’s pioneering film archivist? Did the film attract you in this direction or did your natural interest in film archiving inspire the movie?

A) After my first trip to Bologna, I was curious to see where we were as far as the preservation of our cinema was concerned. I visited the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) –our only film archive that had been built singlehandedly by Mr. Nair during his tenure of almost three decades. I was deeply saddened to see that clearly since Mr. Nair’s retirement the NFAI had fallen off the map as far as the government was concerned and that films were being kept in conditions that were far from ideal. On the same trip, I discovered that Mr. Nair was still living in Pune, across the road from the NFAI.  I wanted to tell the story of the extraordinary life’ work and passion of Mr. Nair without whom Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of Indian cinema and other early pioneers and greats, would probably have been just footnotes in history books, with none of their films surviving to be seen by future generations. That was how the idea of “Celluloid Man” was born. The making of the film was a journey, one on which I discovered the colossal loss of our moving image heritage. My film became a tribute to India’s wonderfully rich film history and to the man who saved it, but it also mourned the irretrievable loss of thousands of films thanks to our attitude to cinema as a commercial industry and not an integral part of our social and cultural heritage.

Q) Have you discovered a gem/s that even you were not aware about, that you want classic film enthusiasts to watch?

Recently, a friend came to my office and handed over the last surviving reel of the first Konkani film “Mogacho Aunddo” that was believed to be lost. The reel was in very poor condition, but we have sent it to the lab in Bologna to see what can be salvaged. We are awaiting the update from the lab, but have also put the word out to see if we can find any further surviving material. It is discoveries like these that give us heart that maybe many more films presumed to be lost will turn up one day.

Q) How much of the legacy have we managed to preserve?

A) That is a difficult question to answer. Sadly, it’s easier to tell you how much we have lost. India made 1700 silent films of which only 5 – 6 complete films survive today.  By 1950 we had lost 70 – 80% of our films including India’s first talkie “Alam Ara”. Even though India celebrated 100 years of cinema in 2013 the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) can boast just about 6000 Indian film titles in their collection. Prints of films as recent as “Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak” (1988), “Khamoshi” (1996) and “Black Friday” (2004) cannot be found.  

Q) What are the steps you have taken to educate the general masses about this legacy?

A) To begin with, I have made several presentations and given lectures about our vanishing cinematic legacy all over India and even internationally at film schools, film festivals and museums.  Film Heritage Foundation’s work has also been very well covered by the press both in India and overseas. 

The Film Preservation and Restoration School India 2015 while targeted at the students who participated in the workshop also was an exercise in creating awareness about the importance and urgency of preserving our film heritage.

Film Heritage Foundation also launched our first publication “From Darkness Into Light: Perspectives on Film Preservation and Restoration” edited by Rajesh Devraj, which is also India’s first book on the subject. The book contains articles by Martin Scorsese on the language of cinema, the restoration of Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, essays by leading international archivists and film historians as well as Film Heritage Foundation’s list of India’s 60 most endangered films that are in urgent need of restoration.

We also have plans for several educational outreach programs in the pipeline that will educate people about our rich and diverse film history with the idea of rekindling an interest in the classics. 

Q) How can the public support this initiative?

A)As a foundation, we are always looking for passionate, committed people who would like to work with us or volunteer their services to help us build this movement. We need people to help us raise funds and get grants for our various programs and projects, to spread the word and attend any programs, lectures or festivals that we organize to learn more about our film heritage. People can also support us by contributing funds to the foundation. Details are available on our website. 

Q) What is the message you would like to give to classic film enthusiasts?

A)This would be a message for all film lovers and members of the film industry. Make your cinema your own and respect it for the art it is. Don’t be satisfied with poor quality DVD and Youtube uploads.  They are a very poor representation of the original maker’s intent and creation. We continue to remix and remake our classics; we still draw inspiration from them; realize that those that came before have made you what you are and pay tribute to them by saving films, both present and past, for future generations. Today’s film could be tomorrow’s classic.