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Celluloid Man (2012) (Movies To See Before You Die - Biographical / Documentary) (Did You Know - 53)

08 Jun, 2013 | Movie Reviews / 2013 Releases / Did You Know! / Movies To See Before You Die / Biographical / Articles on Cinema

Celluloid Man 2012

Almost three decades back, after witnessing the immensely refreshing and mesmerizing works of Hindi film directors of 1950s & 60s, I was even keener on watching the movies made before that in 1930s and 40s. But unfortunately there was no way or source of watching those precious classics and further I was told that we have almost lost the majority of films made in those initial years of Indian Cinema and now can only remember them through some still pictures & short clips.
The fact made me quite sad and I used to wonder that why there wasn’t any official authority, a film organization or a specific government department made to preserve the prints of such valuable films made by our Indian maestros since the early years of the 20th Century? Why this process was not considered important enough, equivalent to the act of saving our heritage and cultural history of the country? And why even the film-makers themselves also never thought of saving those valuable films for the sake of coming generations who could study them as their important reference material in order to move ahead on the path of cinematic expressions.
The questions above were vaguely answered by the DVD revolution since 2005, when few of such gems were revealed in the digital format by the home video companies. And then post 2012 we also got to see the greatly important classics like RAJA HARISHCHANDRA, KALIYA MARDAN, JAMAI BABU and more on Youtube, posted by different energetic film enthusiasts on the occasion of the centenary celebrations of Indian cinema.
However a major question still remained unanswered that who was actually responsible for discovering, collecting & preserving these invaluable prints, silently working in the backdrop from decades. Thankfully, CELLULOID MAN answers that question well, featuring the one man army P. K. NAIR respectably called as NAIR SAAB by then students and now veterans of Indian Film Industry working in various parts of the country. The enlightening film simply amazes you with the fact that in a country known for its crazy love for cinema, with more than 100 crores of population, there is only one man alone, who actually thought of seriously working in this direction in the 60s and then went on to collect many important classics of the past travelling all over silently without making any kind of news craving for a praise or recognition.
Thoughtfully directed by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, CELLULOID MAN is a documentary on the former curator of the Indian National Film Archives, who still is well connected with his Archive built over the years, after getting retired from his hugely significant but thankless job. The passionate man needs to be saluted for his notable efforts made to save the ‘not so recognized’ cultural heritage of our country, just single handedly. He is a living encyclopedia of both Indian and World Cinema, who has simply devoted his complete life to the passion for movies, sacrificing his own will to become a film-maker in the process. And that’s indeed a bold step to take, working in the dark ambience of a theater instead of sharing the shining limelight of the tinsel world with the stars.
Celluloid Man A more than two hours long documentary talking about some rarest of rare moments of Indian Cinema, never seems to be lengthy at all and one truly cherishes those memories of the past shared by Nair Saab in it, so humbly. It is really a treat to listen him discussing the way they used to see film lying on the white sand floor next to the screen in his childhood days (in Trivnadrum) and the passion with which he used to collect the torn parts of the tickets, lobby cards and even those thick small cards coming out of the weighing machines at the theaters, with a one line horoscope and a picture of famous film star on the other side.
Personally I was just really stunned to know that at present we have got only 9-10 films with us, out of more than 1000 films made in the silent era of film-making in the country and that too just because of the efforts made by this CELLULOID MAN, Mr. Nair Saab. Further it was certainly painful to know that the 3 reels of the first Indian talkie AALAM ARA were lost by the family members of its makers only, a few years before Nair Saab reached their door step to collect them for his archive. And thus the only remains of the first talking film of India were lost forever.
Another important feature of this documentary is the way it describes the meaning of ‘A Democratic Archivist”, referring to the manner in which Nair Saab tried to save any kind of Indian film, of any language, of any genre, in any state, may be incomplete with just a few reels available in random order. A truly democratic in nature in that matter, he even used to take World Cinema to the villages of the country and it is simply remarkable to see the farmers talking about films like RASHOMON just because of the passion of this one man only in the whole INDIA.
Released on 3rd of May to celebrate the centenary of Indian cinema, the film has been screened in all major festivals in India and may be available on DVD format soon in the market. It won two National Awards at the 60th National Film Festival including Best Biographical Film and Best Editing and has interviews of numerous reputed film personalities ranging from Kumar Shahani & Adoor Gopalakrishnan to Mahesh Bhatt & Rajkumar Hirani. Many well known personalities of Indian Cinema, quite innocently remember their days spent in the Film Institute Pune, wherein Nair Saab used to show them movies brought in from all over the world, through his silent efforts, anytime of the day at a continuous stretch. Besides, it also rightly remembers the whole team along with Nair Saab, of technicians who always supported his mission unconditionally without any questions asked.
Celluloid ManTo say the least, CELLULOID MAN is a must watch for every movie buff, living in any part of India, as it will make you feel the love for cinema more passionately like never before along with the man who single handedly saved whatever could be saved in time with his unmatchable efforts and enthusiasm.
Moreover, if we all love & remember those maestros of Indian Cinema who gave us such valuable movies in the past, then we also need to thank and salute Nair Saab too who made it available to us in the best possible form before it was all lost to the ignorance this country has always shown towards Cinema. Hopefully after watching CELLULOID MAN and realizing the mistake we have been committing so ignorantly, our country and its people would start treating Cinema as an integral part of our “Rich Cultural Heritage” and not just as a means of entertainment to be seen along with the popcorn in a routine weekend.
Hence if you eat, drink and sleep movies as a devoted lover then just say Cheers to Nair Saab and watch CELLULOID MAN as a must at the earliest.

Directed By Shivendra Singh Dungarpur
Starring : The Man himself, Mr. P. K. Nair or Nair Saab

Tags : Celluloid Man (2012), Movies To See Before You Die Biographical, Documentary, Did You Know Facts on Bollywood at bobbytalkscinema.com, P K Nair, Nair Saab, Film Institute of Pune, Must See Documentaries from India, Bollywood Docuementaries, Not To Be Missed Films On Bollywood at bobbytalkscinema.com, Celluloid Man Review by Bobby Sing, Celluloid Man Movie Review by Bobby Sing
08 Jun 2013 / Comment ( 2 )
Gandhi Vadlapatla
Heard about this documentary few months back but could not get hold of any source like DVD, Blu Ray or screening in theatre. Your review has increased my appetite further. Pl suggest where can I get to see this movie. I m a member of Poona Film Archives & subscribed to Netflix & You Tube sites.
Bobby Sing

Yes certainly its a must watch Gandhi Vadlapatla but unfortunately has not been released in the home video market in India yet.
However its DVD is available in international websites at the following links:




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