Man` - rare glimpses of Indian film heritage (IANS Movie Review) Rating: ***
"The West does not have a rich past but it is rich in history, whereas
India has a rich past, but is poor in history," says Paramesh Krishnan Nair,
the man who made us aware of Dadashaeb Phalke and Indian`s first full-length
feature film, "Raja Harishchandra", in his biographical film
But "Celluloid Man" is more than just a biographical documentary
detailing the life of India`s first film archivist and founder of the National
Film Archive of India, P.K. Nair. It tells us of the trials and tribulations of
the man who helped us preserve Indian film heritage.
The film begins with the octogenarian slowly and softly stating, "Cinema
started as a wonder and magic which became an obsession and then a passion.
Today, it is a part of me. I began to understand people better with my knowledge
of cinema," superimposed against the backdrop of a huge screen showing
clips from Ghatak`s "Meghe Dhaka Tara".
We`re told that of 1,700 silent films made in India, the nine that survive are
purely through Nair`s efforts. The narration tells us of how his trip to Nasik,
Maharashtra made Dadashaheb Phalke history and contains some excellent clips
from silent era films like "Gallant Hearts", "Chandralekha",
"Kalia Madan", "Udayer Pathey" and "Fearless
With comments from nearly 22 renowned film personalities regaling anecdotes
about Nair along with clips from about 34 rare films and a couple of older
documentaries, "Celluloid Man" can be interpreted as a full-length
feature film that is richly textured with the history of Indian Cinema.
Unlike the beginning, the film ends on a dramatic note again with a clip from
Ghatak`s "Meghe Dhaka Tara", where the protagonist screams, "Dada
ami bachbo, dada ami bachbo" which means, "brother, save me".
This haunting cry of desperation clearly endorses the negative state of
functioning at the NFAI.
The production quality of the documentary is of high standard. The frames shot
in half-lit and mood lights layered sporadically over film clips makes it a
delight to watch it. Shot in both 16mm and 35mm with the help of 11 DOPs
(director of photography) using a variety of different color and black-and-white
Kodak stocks the picture has a dense, unfailing, rich-hued look.
While quality of the film editing pattern along with the sound track is smooth
and flawless, there are a few glaring blunders in the subtitles that don`t match
with the content of the speech.
An Indian `Cinema Paradiso`, it`s the director Shivendra Singh Dungarpur`s
tribute to his mentor. He has in all his enthusiasm glorified Nair, which he
definitely deserves. But as a filmmaker, Dungarpur has omitted NFAI`s current
scenario, which could be misleading in its historical context.
With a run time of 2-hour-and-20-minute, the film could be a little tedious. A
little bit of trimming could help make the film more crisp and enthralling.
A winner of two National Awards, the film is being released under the PVR
Director Rare`s banner.