Cinema

At National Archive, 14,900 Film Reels Kept in Gunny Bags, No Longer in ‘Runnable Condition’

Records also showed that in February this year, the reels were moved to a private warehouse with no temperature control, little ventilation and leaking roofs ahead of a visit by ministry and industry officials.

Film reels

The report, which had been prepared in November 2015, when the reels were inspected while being stored in the gunny bags, shows that of the 17,595 film reels, only 2,645 were in “runnable condition. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: More than 1,100 films that are contained in 14,950 reels, including rare and precious pieces of Indian as well as international cinema, are rotting in 1,202 gunny bags on the second and third floors of one of the buildings in the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) campus in Pune, an internal ‘condition report’ accessed by the Indian Express has revealed.

The report, which was prepared in November 2015 when the reels were inspected while being stored in the gunny bags, shows that of the 17,595 film reels, only 2,645 were in “runnable condition” and even these were kept in gunny bags for many months before they were moved to customised racks in controlled atmospheres. The rest cannot even be put through a film projector.

The Indian Express also found that in February this year, the reels in the gunny bags were moved to a private warehouse in Chakan, about 40 km from NFAI in Kothrud, where there was no temperature control, little ventilation and leaking roofs. Records showed that this had been done days before experts from India and outside the country and officials from the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry visited the campus for a workshop on film preservation. The bags were moved back to NFAI two weeks after the workshop ended on March 6.

NFAI administrative officer D.K. Sharma had signed an ‘octroi certificate’ that made sure that the bags were not charged while they were being shifted and the certificate had valued the consignment at Rs 1 lakh.

NFAI director Prakash Magdum told the Indian Express that the reels had been segregated and packed after assessment in 2015. “The titles thus have been identified, with multiple copies, in some cases almost 10 to 12 copies of a film. The material in good condition has been identified and put in plastic cans and stored. The damaged/decomposed material is packed in gunny bags for further necessary action such as disposing of decomposed content, which may otherwise affect the good material. Even such decomposed is also housed in temperature-controlled conditions,” he said.

Replies to Indian Express’ queries under the Right to Information Act showed that a high level committee on the National Film Heritage Mission – headed by the secretary of the I&B ministry – had held five meetings in June 2015, but had not discussed the film reels in gunny bags.