Celluloid Man is an amazing documentary about P.K Nair an Indian film archivist and film scholar, who was the founder and director of the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) in 1964. He is regarded as the Henri Langlois of India because of his lifelong dedication towards the preservation of films in India.
The documentary takes you through the pioneering work of Mr. Nair in Preserving many of the master pieces from the early years of Indian Cinema. Trough his words and through the words of eminent film personalities of today like Naseeruddin Shah, Adoor, Jaya Bachchan, Shyam Benegal and many more we see the work of a person whose passion was cinema.
It is interesting to see him narrate incidents from his work like the one in which he says Sanjeev Kumar who was casted in Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi approaches him saying he had not seen even one Ray movie before and then takes a room for rent in Pune for a month and Mr. Nair would screen one Satyajit Ray movie for Sanjeev.
Also the stories of how he got the prints of Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra and Kaliya Mardan and the Bombay Talkies films such as Jeevan Naiya, Bandhan, Kangan, Achhut Kanya and Kismet, S. S. Vasan’s Chandralekha and Uday Shankar’s Kalpana. Also among them were the second malayalam movie Marthandavarma.
His experiences with Foreign films and people who first got introduced to Vittorio De Sica’s Bycycle Thieves and Kurasova’s Rashomon that completely changed their lives.
Eminent Personalities of yesterday years and today were introduced to world and Indian cinema just by this meticulous individual who dedicated his life to archiving the history of cinema. When he retired they had 12000 titles of which 8000 were Indian and then foreign films.
It was also a pleasure to see the Award winning Cinematographer Mr. Ramachandra babu whom I got connected accidentally when he saw a footage of Nirmalyam that I had uploaded on Youtube. The scene that had me as a 2 year old :). Apparently Ramachandra Babu was the person who did the Camera for that scene.
The Documentary talks also about Mr. Nair’s meeting with Henri Langlois himself and also the way he helped bring cinema appreciation to even some remote parts of India. Even directors who are indebted to him for having their first movies preserved. The message is that after Mr. Nair the Archival is not as before and the reason they say is that a man with such a passion is missing.
Here is a Trailer
I recommend this documentary to anyone who is a film enthusiast or student, to know the history of our cinema through the eyes of an archivist and the personalities his work touched. Celluloid Man is directed by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur. Shiv, himself a film archivist and restorer has given a very touching tribute to the man.