It is important for us to preserve our cinema – Shivendra
Shivendra Singh Dungarpur broke upon the Indian film scene with his much admired and feted debut film, Celluloid Man, which documented P.K. Nair, the legendary film archivist of India. He then established the Film Heritage Foundation in 2014 and since then has been instrumental in several film restoration projects across the world working with the British Film Institute and Martin Scorsese Film Foundation among many others.
In India too, along with working on his own films documenting Indian film heritage, Shivendra has instituted an annual workshop to educate and train film students in the art of film preservation and restoration. This year the Film Heritage Foundation and Viacom 18 have joined hands for the second time in a row with an aim to save and uphold the legacy of India’s cinematic heritage. Shivendra discusses his aims and aspirations for Indian Cinema and the ongoing workshop in a chat with Pandolin.
What is the state of film preservation and restoration in India? Are we doing enough?
No, we are not doing enough but we have made a beginning. We made a beginning when we established our foundation in 2014 and immediately after its establishment we were able to bring in awareness by doing the first ever workshop in Mumbai in the same year. This is the second workshop that is happening and I think we have made a fair bit of contribution towards making people realize that film preservation and restoration is an important aspect of Indian cinematic heritage and it is important for us to preserve our cinema. But it is not enough. We have gathered much more momentum since then but still have more to do.
Having made two acclaimed films on the subject, what drew you to delve deeply into this area of preservation?
For me, the realization about the lack of discussion on film preservation came when I was making Celluloid Man. I was deeply affected by it and realized that there was an urgent need to take up the subject. I then made The Immortals, which dealt with images and objects of Indian cinema and recently also won the special jury award at MIFF (Mumbai international film festival) 2016. As a filmmaker, you have learnt filmmaking from people who have inspired you and you get completely moved when you realise that if their work does not survive, how will you continue teaching filmmaking? We learn filmmaking by watching others’ films and that is a resource for me to look into whenever I make films.
What is the immediate aim of the Film Heritage Foundation?
The immediate goal is to get on with this tremendous workshop, which is currently ongoing in Pune at the National Film Archive of India. We will be covering several facets of film preservation. This is going to be longer than last year’s workshop; this time it is a ten-day workshop for 48 students. We have a fabulous faculty for this year’s workshop that was inaugurated by veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah. We will also have sessions by Thelma Ross and Richard Wright.
Tying up with NFAI was a great move. How did Viacom 18 come on board this initiative?
Viacom 18 has been very supportive of the whole initiative. In fact, Sudhanshu Vats (Group CEO of Viacom 18) who is truly a patron of Indian cinema and its heritage has been enormously helpful and has given us complete freedom and support for the restoration movement. He was the first person from the film and television industry to come on board as a sponsor for the first school and this kind of appreciation for cinema had been missing earlier. For the first time industry stalwarts are taking notice and working for the preservation of their own heritage.
Tell us about areas of film preservation and restoration that will be covered in the Film Preservation and Restoration Workshop 2016?
The workshop will cover both film and non-film material like posters, lobby cards, photographs and scripts. We will have practical classes on film restoration, sound technologies, preserving & handling the celluloid prints as well as digitization. We will also be covering different kind of film projections like 35 mm, 70 mm, digital projection, as this too is an art form. Poster restoration and preservation of other cinema memorabilia will also be the focus of the workshop.
Will there be special focus on Indian films? Is there any particular filmmaker’s work or film personality that would be in focus?
This whole workshop is all about Indian cinema. We are not going to discriminate between different kind of films. Whether it is an old art film or a new commercial film, both are equally important for our film heritage. Also, the preservation effort is not about Bollywood cinema or just Hindi cinema but Indian cinema as a whole.
Apart from National Film Archives of India and Film Heritage Foundation do we have other
bodies working in the same field in India?
No, there are not many bodies which are working for film preservation on this scale. This is a very recent idea which has started to gain momentum but hopefully we will have more focus on the same in the future.
As an organization, what are the future objectives and upcoming projects of the Film Heritage Foundation?
Today India faces a dire need to save our cinematic heritage of both film and non-film motion picture content. Currently, India is under-equipped to handle the preservation that is needed in a country which produces the most number of films as compared to any other country in the world. Therefore, the future objective of the Film Heritage Foundation is to create an awareness about this need and also facilitate a climate of discussions and practical training in film preservation and restoration techniques.
Is there anything that film enthusiasts can do to aid film preservation in India?
Film enthusiasts can definitely contribute a lot to the cause. Since the Film Heritage Foundation is a privately run body we require a lot of support through donations and engagements. Film enthusiasts can also contribute by engaging with the foundation on social media, promoting its events to generate more awareness and to come and work with us on several projects that are presently underway.
The workshop titled ‘Film Preservation & Restoration Workshop India 2016’ is currently underway till March 6, in Pune and will involve lectures, presentations and practical classes that will be conducted by leading international experts in the field.