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Interview: PK Nair, The Celluloid Man

By Nandita Dutta • Published on January 26, 2013
Still from Celluloid Man

Still from Celluloid Man

[A]s documentary Celluloid Man gears up for its 11th film festival screening at International Film Festival Rotterdam on January 28; we ask the real Celluloid Man P.K Nair how he felt when he first saw the film made on his life:

How did you feel when Shivendra Singh Dungarpur approached you with the idea for this film?

In fact, before him, a number of my friends and well wishers including some FTII graduates from Kerala had approached me with similar requests and a few of them did some initial recording as well. So I took Shivendra’s request in the stride and gave my consent warning him about the likely opposition he may face from the then NFAI Director who was terribly hostile to me. I did not take his request seriously at that stage as I hardly knew him as an FTII student of 94 batch; by that time I had retired and shifted to Kerala. There was a lull after he approached me in early 2010. I came to know later that Shiv had to move heaven and earth to get permission to shoot me inside NFAI premises. Even after he started shooting first at FTII and later at NFAI , I had no clue what the final shape of the film was going to be.

What was your reaction on watching the finished documentary?

I was emotionally charged and had to be lifted up from my seat by the crew members and brought to the foyer of Adlab preview theatre. I never imagined the film will turn out to be like this. When Shiv told me the after the initial cutting at his office editing room that the film is going to be more than two and half hours, I was a bit scared and requested him not to keep it over two hours. I was afraid the film will turn out to be boring after some time. But during the preview, I was so emotionally involved in the film that I didn’t notice the length. I was relieved when all the others who sat with me for the preview confirmed that the length was fully justified.

Are you happy with the response the film has been receiving at film festivals?

Very Happy. I hope the film will open up the eyes of all concerned …the film community, the audiences and the authorities about the need for preservation of our film heritage.

do you have to say about the current state of film preservation in India?

Appalling. Film has to be preserved in Film. Digital technology has to be used for restoring the damage in cellulose film due to improper storage conditions. There is a mindset that long term preservation is possible only in digital format. This is totally wrong. Cellulose film has lasted for more than hundred years. Lumiere films are still available in film format. Film has proved its longevity whereas digital technology is hardly two/ three decades old. It’s longevity is only a notion which has yet to prove itself. The NFAI has already spent crores of public money in digitising its film collection but nobody has bothered to check their condition–whether the sound and images are there or not. The officials at the NFAI do not take care of the film material since they think they have been digitized. If the situation continues like this I won’t be surprised if the bulk of Archive film collection vanishes in the next two/ three decades. Who cares ? The more I think about it, the more sleepless nights I get……

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