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‘The industry has neglected film preservation’
Debarati Palit Singh | Wednesday, 24 February 2016 AT 10:57 PM IST
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It’s hard to miss Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s passion for film preservation and restoration. Since he launched Film Heritage Foundation, a non-profit organisation, he has been working relentlessly to save our country’s cinematic heritage. An alumnus of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Dungarpur has worked on two documentaries — Celluloid Man, based on archivist P K Nair, founder of the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) and The Immortals highlighting Asian cinema. We caught up with Dungarpur, who is organising the Film Preservation and Restoration workshop India 2016, at NFAI.

What kind of response did you receive during last year’s Film Preservation and Restoration workshop?
Last year, we had received 120 applications of which 52 participants were selected. This year, we received 83 applications and 48 were selected. Last year, we had got many scholarships, so a lot of people were interested. Besides, there was a large participation from the film industry. We took up this particular initiative so that the NFAI staff can attend a workshop like this and can help in the preservation of films. Soon after last year’s workshop, I got in touch with Prakash Magdum, Director NFAI, to continue this trend and he was very enthusiastic. We will continue conducting similar workshops. The next one might be with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Film preservation is a challenging job. How much has your foundation helped?   
Till the time I made Celluloid Man, I was more interested in making films than preserving them. But then I realised what we had lost and that bothered me. We have achieved a lot since our foundation, started two years ago. We have got the only book on film preservation. I think we have managed to create a kind of awareness in India. My foundation has been doing a lot of things like we have restored parts of Uday Shankar’s Kalpana. Apart from NFAI, we are the ones in India to initiate film preservation at such a serious level. Our board members include Shyam Benegal, Gulzar, Jaya Bachchan, Girish Kasaravalli. We also have an archive and a large number of material. We have also preserved non-film material.

Is the film industry careless and casual about film preservation?
The industry is not careless but has neglected film preservation. There are a few, who are into film preservation, but the numbers are dismal. If efforts were made in the right direction, we wouldn’t have lost so much of our film heritage. We have lost nearly 70 per cent of cinematic heritage since 1964. We have lost Alam Ara, our first film. Since we started our foundation, we have managed to create some awareness. I have to give credit to organisations like NFAI, Viacom 18, who have been with us since our first workshop. From the industry, we have received support from Manish Mundra’s Drishyam Films (they gave us two scholarships). The industry’s support is very necessary.

Can the negligent attitude be attributed to no commercial returns for the filmmakers?
You are right. People want returns and when there are no returns, they wonder, ‘why should we invest’. Like for us, we are not getting any commercial returns. But we need many such organisations who will come forward and contribute. And we need to step up our efforts right now.  

What else are you working on?

We will get into the production of books. One of my books that I want to produce is on Baburao Painter and his work. I also want to work on an archival book. And, of course, we will continue preserving films.

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