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.
My story for “The Last Act” started with the last date of submission. I was busy writing for a short film, and had no idea, what in the world, was I doing. My friend told me about the Large Short Films collaborative project. I checked the website and found that the 12th of August, was the dead line. I felt as if I reached the end of the line. But miraculously, the date was extended till the 16th, so I had less than a week at hand, to finish and submit my section for “The Last Act”.
Since 12th was a Saturday, 13th was a Sunday and then there was the 15thof August, which is Independence Day, of course. So I had only the 14th, to speed post the DVD, because 15th was a holiday and chances were slim, for my DVD, to reach on time. But eventually, it did!
The line between reality and dreams is an extremely thin one; with expectations being lesser but hopes being higher. But the day I was selected, my dream turned into reality. And thus, began the race between me and time. I had to develop two stories in 12 days; out of which, I lost 5 days just to convince my friends, to be a part of the film. We had no place to sit and discuss together, so we chose the station, which served as our discussion place. We worked from late at night, till early in the morning. Now and then, we were harassed by the police, but decided not to give up.
One day, a few patrolling policemen came, and started blasting us with their questions. “Kya ho raha hai yahan?” they asked, to which I replied, “film likh rahe hai”, to which, they promptly said “kaun si film, kam dhandha nahi hai kya, padhne ki umar hai ye sab kar rahe ho, aur Gwalior main kaun film banata hai, Mumbai jao!”
At that time, only three of us, shared the same enthusiasm for film making, as I did. We knew we needed a team. After the story was approved, I went to Delhi to get cameras, equipments, and gather a good team, as well. Since I had no money, I had to borrow, from my relatives and friends. Amazingly, I wrote my first draft of screen play, while travelling Gwalior to Delhi, in the train, and the last draft of screen play, while travelling back to Gwalior.
I had scheduled a two-day long shoot, since the crew was coming from Delhi. Even though I was short on budget, but we managed to finish it, within 20 hours. My actors were from a theatre group, but the problem was, all of them were part-timers. Acting for them was a hobby, and they were all engaged in a full-time job, of some sort in some sector, like banking, railways etc. I designed my schedule, according to their availability.
Tragedy struck the first day of production, when I lost my handy cam, which was being used for production shots and the making of the film. I was okay with it, at first, but when the project ended, I felt terrible.
The first day, we shot at a place called Topi Bazar, which is a Sarafa market, and thus remains mostly crowded. Not only, was it hard to manage the crowd. But a rumour generated, which further added spice, to the shoot. “Arey, CID ka shoot hai kya?” they asked, to which I answered “No, it’s a short film”. After about an hour or two later, I heard, “Arey bhai, Shah Rukh Khan ane wala hai, 2 ghante mein”. It started with CID, and ended with Shah Rukh Khan!
My problems did not end there. For shooting a scene at a police station, I got the permission, 3 days before the shoot. But on the day of the shoot, we got to know that our permission had been cancelled, without any reason. Already on a tight schedule, I lost around 4 hours. A new set was created in Maratha boarding, and we finished shooting at 4 AM, in the morning. My next schedule was at around 9 AM, and since my home was 25 km from the location, my assistant directors and I, had to sleep in the car.
It was not good back then, but after the film got completed, these were the best memories we ever had. Maybe it would have been better, had I not lost the camera. I and my team, still share a laugh, whenever we meet. Those four months went by like seconds back then, and now it has become like an unforgettable memory.
His father wanted him to learn how to write computer programs, but he wanted to write stories. Although his parents were against his idea, to opt for filmmaking as a career, he drove ahead and started writing scripts for films. For a man, with very little idea about filmmaking, Himanshu Tyagi made it large, with the golden opportunity Large Short Films, gave him.
As a child, he dreamt of achieving the impossible. From sports person to animator, he aspired to achieve everything in life. Although he loved drawing and sketching as a child, it was only during his teenage years, he found inspiration in writing stories. He began writing his own stories, so much so, that he lost interest even in his favourite subjects, like Maths and Physics. At that point of time, it never struck him for once, to convert writing into a full-time career.
He continued to write several short stories, even while pursuing engineering, but he never published them. It was not before 2008, he decided to convert some of his short stories, into films. This was his first step into film making.
After completing engineering in 2009, he went to Pune and tried joining FTII, he had no luck. His only driving force was his wish to participate in the Cannes Film Festival. He made his first short film with his friend’s digital camera, during a film making course. But he dropped out in between the course, and planned on making another short film “The Other Side”, which unfortunately, was a blunder. Soon after, he found himself assisting in various short films, to get an idea about filmmaking. From holding the reflector to the camera, he did everything possible, to master the basics of filmmaking. Although most of these films were made on a zero budget, it made a big difference to his career.
Initially, his parents were against his decision, to become a film maker. But eventually, they kept on supporting him, in every manner possible. He attempted to make his own short films, as an amateur director, but most of his projects were incomplete because of lack of budgeting and a proper team. He participated in a number of online competitions, but made it large with the “The Last Act”.
Large Short Films appeared in my life from nowhere almost! I remember, one fine day Anurag Kashyap called me up asking, “Kya kar rahaa hai?” And spoke about the collaborative feature project. By then, I had completed the World Collaborative Feature project, so I had an idea about what it’s going to be. I was totally kicked from Day 1. Later, Abhijit described me the project in detail. After a few days we got into action. I was expected to be the Project Manager for “The Last Act” . I came together with Abhijit and the rest of the team to work out the deadlines. Next day, the deadlines got approved. Once we announced the showreel deadlines on the websites, showreels started pouring in from all over country. We were overwhelmed with the response. Overall, we received more than 600 entries! To keep it neutral, we gave the North Indian films to Chakri Toleti and the South Indian ones to Anurag Kashyap. Once the final 12 were selected and announced, absolute madness started. We had to make sure every film maker got his own space and freedom to shoot his bit. Once there scripts were finalised, I realised I could give myself almost no time! According to the earlier deadline, I had two weeks that was now reduced to 4 days!!! In those 4 days, I once, walked into the Showhouse office for a meeting at 2pm and only walked out at 7am the next day. Practically, the meeting had only ended then! Thankfully we had our eureka moment by then. After that, came the daunting task of interacting with the 12 directors. My phone had practically become a part of my body. It was extremely intriguing to interact with 12 super talented film makers from not just different demographics but also from different backgrounds. Each one of them, brought along their own unique taste and understanding of cinema that was quite enriching to know. Once the scripts were approved, we had to stop interacting and get to working. Thereafter, we started receiving the versions one by one. But none of us had a vision of the final picture, as to how it would look. It was then when our editor, Sanyukta Kaza came in. Sanyukta, understood the pace of the film very well and started working towards taking it to the next level. Simultaneously, sound was being worked on. At the same time some absolute madness was also on. The time for last moment glitches, arguments and more madness had finally come. But by now we all could see the baby shaping up. I have to add that the entire post prod was done in 17, I repeat 17 days. And here nothing but some impeccable teamwork was seen. People were awake and working for nights at a stretch. Finally, we did a trial run on the 10 of December 2012. The outcome was quite outstanding and laudable. In fact, it gave each one of us, the confidence of pulling it through. Overall, I would call it a great learning experience and will stay on for long.
The Project Manager, “The Last Act”, and our very dear Asmit Pathare was born and brought up in Miraj, a small town on the border of Maharasthra and Karnataka. Born to a Kannadiga mother and a Marathi father, he grew up speaking Kannada and Marathi. And no wonder his childhood with a teacher mom and a social worker dad was pretty sorted!
Ever since childhood, cricket was a dream. Although he loved playing and practicing the game, he never got a chance to consider cricket as a profession. Instead, they wanted him to follow his cousin’s footsteps and become an IITian. Although he worked hard and appeared for the exam, his rankings were only enough, to get him admitted, to a local engineering college. After finishing his college, he bagged a job with the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), and shifted to Mumbai. But God had different plans!
It was now that his interests saw a sudden paradigm shift! He was now interested in acting more than cricket. So much so that he would try and mimic every famous persona, he saw on screen. Even when he could not catch up with the latest film releases, he would watch numerous films on television. There was one point, wherein, his only idols were the popular Bollywood stars!
While working at TCS, he came across theatre and stage. He immediately fell in love with theatre, and was fortunate enough, to watch Eugene Ionesco’s ‘Chairs’ directed by Atul Kumar. After being bowled over it, Asmit met Atul, and started working with him at The Company Theatre. It was during his theatre days, that he came to know about the nuances of lighting, staging, writing scripts and acting.
While working at the theatre, he met a bright and intelligent young man, Srinivas Sunderrajan. It was at his behest, that he started making films and understood soon enough, that his true calling was in filmmaking. And there was no turning back since then!
Born in Bombay, Nitye Sood spent his childhood living in different towns and cities of India. Due to his father’s job, he grew up experiencing the diverse essence of culture, food, language and religion of India. From the tea estates of Assam to the backwaters of Kerela, he has enjoyed and seen it all.
Bangalore was the only city, where he had been settled since the 9th standard, and eventually went on to pursue his graduation in engineering. People often asked him why he pursued engineering if he was interested in making films, in the first place! But for him, he adored science as much as he loved film-making.
While at Bangalore, he realised his love for film-making. At first, it started out as a hobby and a fun way to spend his time. Soon, he started capturing videos on his cell phone, while at home and on school trips, as well. But as time passed, he came to realise his passion for film-making and went on to pursue it.
Moreover, he loves travelling when he’s not making films. As a college student, he spent much of his time taking road trips, or trekking at Ladakh and Uttarakhand. Being an outdoorsy person, he also enjoys adventure sports such as white water rafting and rock climbing. And moreover, while in school, he was a part of the school’s football team, and was its house captain.
Besides travelling, he also loves listening to music and reading on a wide range of subjects, such as economics, politics and science. But his reading habits definitely cannot categorise him as a bookworm, since he loves hanging out and partying with his friends.
Since the beginning of “The Last Act” project, we did not have very high expectations of our selection. Therefore, we did not bother getting disappointed, even if we failed the selection process. However, we got the shock of our lives when we received news about us being a part of the final twelve, since the filmmaker from Bangalore had to drop out.
From that point onwards, life went into overdrive. We had to adapt someone else’s script, start pre-production from scratch and deliver the segment within a month. It was a roller coaster ride for us. Sleep was off the menu, for a large chunk of the month. But we did not give up the challenge. We worked like never before since we knew the stakes were high. From casting crisis, to production delays and a spiraling budget, every aspect of making our segment was a challenge but a very satisfactory experience.
We experienced some of the best moments of our lives, during the making of this film. It is impossible to forget that moment when we had to improvise an entire scene on location. One of the lead actors could not turn up at the last moment, and we had a crazy 22-hour shoot!
Although we crossed the deadline by a few days, we managed to pull it off. Ultimately, it was our dream of being a part of this incredible film, and the chance to work on the big screen that kept us going. In the end, working on “The Last Act” was an absolutely mind-blowing experience.
Our film-making is all about movement. We like using different locations and events, to convey our ideas and themes. “The Last Act” was no different.
This film brought an enormous change in our lives. It served as a huge exposure and gave us a chance to meet numerous creative heads. Being the only duo directors in the 12.12.12 directors list, people often asked us, as to whether or not, we fought over ideas.
In fact, our ideas were often a cause of our clash, but it helped us, to come up with the best possible conclusions. Getting selected out of a group of 700-800, from around the nation was not an easy task. But it was the best feeling, we ever experienced. It’s still tough to believe that we got selected from Delhi, since it’s a huge metro with many production houses.
As far as the shoot was concerned, it was exactly what we loved! We had the freedom to shoot it, our way, with our actors and choice of locations. Although it was tough making a film, without understanding much, as to what we were making, and how it would turn out. But still, we had great fun making it! With a mobile phone as our clue, we discussed as to how we could mould a different concept. Narrating the story and conveying our ideas, within 10 minutes was another huge task. Even post-production gave us a few sleepless nights.
In fact, we can still recall the time we shot a sequence during Dussehra, and it was really difficult. The hilarious part was the very first scene of our sequence, where we made our friend, lay down for shooting a police interrogation scene.
But before the camera could shoot the film, we tied his hands and clicked numerous candid photographs, many of which were a bit too personal! But in the end, it was an experience of a lifetime, for us. We thank the entire team of LSF, for accomplishing this astonishing task, known as “The Last Act”.
The happy-go-lucky Nijo Jonson was born and brought up in New Delhi but hails originally from Kerala. As a kid of 80’s, Nijo saw an era transform, as the world adopted digital from print-TV and mobile from telephone.
He had an interesting and fun filled childhood. He grew up playing with marbles and video games and tasted both restaurant and street food. He growing up years was mostly in Delhi and Kerala with a huge extended family! His parents were government employees and Nijo thinks they always took the best decisions for him and his sister.
Studying was never his favourite pastime. Instead, he preferred playing cricket or talking over the phone. The greatest turning point of his life came with joining an arts and culture group, Spandan while in college. Although he started off with dancing, he soon came to discover and hone his other skills like singing, composing ghazals and writing stories.
With his own art and culture group and invitations to some of biggest college festivals of the country, he was lucky to get a chance to prove his worth and rediscover himself. This made his life better than a fairy tale. But all that soon ended when he got an offer to join a major airline company. For the next four years, he was caught up doing a ten-to-six job with no room to breathe.
During that period, he also developed a strong love for film-making as it is the amalgamation of every art form. Soon after, he left his job and joined Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan to pursue a course in film-making. Though it took around a year, but it was not long before he could fulfill his dreams and establish Purani Dilli Talkies with his friends, Rohit.R.Gaba and Karthick Thapliyal.
Born and raised in New Delhi, Rohit.R.Gaba was a totally pampered kid. A decent child, this ‘mamma’s boy’ got everything he wanted. Even though he hailed from a middle class family, the businessman father granted every one of his little son’s wishes even if it exceeded the family budget.
He finished his schooling and graduation from Delhi and moved over to the ‘City of Dreams’ Mumbai to pursue his post-graduation from KC College. Rating himself as an average student, Gaba admits, he was never a bookworm and chose to be a part of the dramatics society back in school and college. His family wanted him to pursue higher education abroad but he chose to stay back in India instead. Although they were a little shocked when Gaba announced his decision to pursue film-making as a career, but then they respected and supported his decision.
Apart from making films, nothing excites him more than watching films, hanging out with friends, playing games on his PSP and exploring new places. Capturing candid shots of his nieces is another one of his latest hobbies as of now.
The experience of working as a part of “The Last Act” was fun, satisfactory and challenging at the same time. Shoestring budgets and working from remote locations might be a limitation but worked out effectively. The plot was so thrilling and mind-blowing at the same time that my excitement never hit a low point for a second.
Deadlines always kept us on our toes, but being a professional filmmaker I understood the significance of deadlines. Moreover, writing two 10-minute scripts in 10 days was not some silly joke! It’s a challenge because you are racing not only against time, you also have to resolve internal creative conflicts and produce both the scripts with love and dedication.
I was fortunate that both of my scripts were approved immediately. But I was given the liberty to produce only one of them. Intuition drove me from the first day of this project. Although it was a gamble, but I decided to send one of my films as my showreel, out of gut feeling.
After submitting my showreel, I almost forgot about this competition. But one day, while sitting at a café and penning down a concept for a client, I received the news of my selection among the top 12 directors for the first collaborative feature film of India.
It was undoubtedly a good news but what made it great was the fact that Anurag Kashyap, my favorite director, had handpicked me. I could not believe that I was watching ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ a month back, and in a few months we will be working on “The Last Act”.
Since that day, I stopped my other production jobs and concentrated on this project. Dealing with deadlines became a part and parcel of my work, but deadlines for this film were fun to deal with. I was so lost is making commercial projects, that I neglected my first love ‘fiction’ and somehow this film reunited me with fiction again. My wife was my only bouncing board since as filmmakers, we were pretty lonely.
‘English ka Tota’ or ’The Parrot Man’ as I call it, was my first idea for the Ghaziabad segment. Surprisingly it turned out to be the best one among all because the idea hit me like a bullet. Despite several great ideas, I kept coming back to it again and again.
The pre-production was a maddening experience because I was trying to make a film on a tight budget. The challenge was that I was not a student filmmaker any longer. Beg, borrow, steal was associated with student filmmaking. But now this could not go on. However, I made new friends through this film and rediscovered old ones.
From the mohallas of old Ghaziabad to city streets, location hunting was a crazy but fun experience. It helped me to come across places and faces, I last saw as a child. Shooting in the crowded streets was a living nightmare for the crew but finally all went well.
Of course every shoot has its topsy turvy side. On the morning of the first day of the shoot, one of my actors was affected by some sort of viral infection. I respect him for the fact that despite being sick, he gave a stunning performance.
Stressful but fun, rumors also hovered in the air during the shoot. Gossip like “Katrina Kaif will be a part of this film” and “Karan Johar’s car just arrived” was buzzing in the air. Even our executive producer was mistaken for a heroine and was surrounded by autograph seekers. We had a blast, laughing our hearts out!
But jokes apart, this film is really special for me because I signed my first autograph as a director. It was a strange but sweet feeling to sign an autograph for the first time since directors are rarely recognized by the masses.
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