Why the merger of film bodies with NFDC has the film fraternity worried

The Films Division of India, Children’s Film Society India, NFAI and Directorate of Film Festivals are being merged into one unit called National Film Development Corporation. Imaging: Vignesh C

In 2011, film researcher Ramesh Kumar got a chance to interview Suresh Chabria, former director of National Film Archive of India (NFAI). When Kumar asked if Chabria would have considered archiving works featuring Hindi film actor Govinda at the NFAI during his tenure, the answer was a straight “no”.

“Honestly, no. We didn’t have space for that kind of stuff. I was trying my level best for New Theatres Films, (Satyajit) Ray, Mani Kaul and (Kumar) Shahani, (G) Aravindan, Adoor (Gopalakrishnan) etc. (Filmmakers from the Indian New Wave/Parallel Cinema). Govinda negatives, why? To this day, I will tell you, you can’t be so democratic. Ultimately, why are we appointed? We have some sense of standards... A patwari's (village accountant) record books are more historic than Govinda’s films,” Chabria replied.

In 2016, Kumar made a mention of this interview in his doctoral thesis submitted to the New York University, saying Chabria’s response brings into focus the functioning of film archives, the curators in these institutions, the power wielded by them in the production of knowledge, the illusion of objectivity ascribed to archival holdings, and the disputable neutrality of the histories they narrativise.

“It illustrates how the film archive, the point of origin of many film histories, is not a passive repository of records, even more so if it is national in nature, nor are its keepers mere facilitators of the public’s access to the institution’s collections,” Kumar wrote.

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