You love watching films, catching up with the latest releases on Fridays and love hearing the latest movie buff. But do have any idea, what happens to these films, a few years later? How or where are they preserved? Or more importantly, who has been archiving them, through all these years?
When questioned about the history of films, you might recall ‘Alam Ara’ or ‘Raja Harishchandra’, but would you be able to recall them, if these films were not archived? The reason, you can recall these films is not because of information available on the internet or news, but because of a man; a man, who has been archiving these films since their inception. His name is P.K Nair.
Paramesh Krishnan Nair was born on April 6, 1933 in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerela. A man, who has been compared to Henri Langlois, P.K Nair is an Indian film archivist and film scholar. He later went on, to establish the National Film Archive of India (NFAI), in 1964. His ardour for films can be surmised in his lifelong dedication towards the preservation of films in India. A passionate film archivist, he worked at the NFAI for over three decades, collecting films from India, and all over the world.
He was instrumental in acquiring the archives of several Indian films, now considered a landmark, like Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra and Kaliya Mardan, Bombay Talkies films such as Jeevan Naiya, Bandhan, Kangan, Achhut Kanya and Kismet, S.S. Vasan’s Chandralekha and Uday Shankar’s Kalpana.
He had a keen interest in cinema, since an early age. Even during his pre-teen years, he would rush off to the nearest movie theatre, post dinner, to catch the latest releases. Since it would be impossible to watch the entire film till late hours, he would catch the matinee show of the same film, during weekends.
He believes that the archivist in him was born, out of his habit of preserving film tickets. He began collecting used film tickets, because the back of the tickets would have a picture of a famous actor or actress, with a few lines written about them. It is an incredulous fact, but he has preserved every film ticket of the films he has watched, till date!
From acclaimed international directors like Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Vittorio De Sica and Federico Fellini to Indian stalwarts like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen and Guru Dutt; Nair has played a key role in introducing such famous names to film students, society members and film enthusiasts, around the nation. Without him, film makers would have never found their inspiration. He was also instrumental in setting up the International Film Festival of Kerala. In 2008, Nair was honoured with the Satyajit Ray Memorial Award.
‘Celluloid Man’, a documentary based on Nair’s life, was made by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur. It was premiered at the Il Cinema Ritrovatoin, Bologna, Italy in June 2012. It went on to win two National Awards at the 60th National Film Awards, including for Best Biographical Film and Best Editing. The film was released in India on May 3, 2013 to coincide with the centenary of Indian cinema.