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Memorial centre at Mani Bhavan features rare footage, clips of the Mahatma

A newly constructed Gandhi Films Exhibition Centre was recently inaugurated in the city, featuring rare footage and film clips on Gandhi

On the evening of January 29, Mani Bhavan, Gandhiji’s residence in Mumbai from 1917-1934 welcomed its visitors with a red carpet, marigold flowers, traditional kokum drink and Gandhiji’s favourite bhajan, Vaishnav Jana To, being played in the background.

Nitin Potdar and Dr Jabbar Patel in the storage room at the Films Exhibition Centre
Nitin Potdar and Dr Jabbar Patel in the storage room at the Films Exhibition Centre

The occasion was to mark the Mahatma’s 66th death anniversary with the inauguration of the newly developed Gandhi Films Exhibition Centre. The aim of the exhibition centre is to bring Gandhi to the public, tourists and students. “When we have rare and interesting footage on Gandhi, why should we depend on Richard Attenborough’s movie?

(L-R) Governor K Sankarnarayanan, journalist Kumar Ketkar, film director Dr Jabbar Patel, Gandhi Films Foundation director Subhash Jayakar, and Foundation chairperson Nitin Potdar
(L-R) Governor K Sankarnarayanan, journalist Kumar Ketkar, film director Dr Jabbar Patel, Gandhi Films Foundation director Subhash Jayakar, and Foundation chairperson Nitin Potdar

We have material that has been collected since 1948-49, and it’s time we use it. If Gandhi’s teachings were relevant then, they are more so relevant now,” says Nitin Potdar, corporate lawyer and chairperson of the Gandhi Film Foundation.

Impact
He continues, “Every memorial centre in the world has an exhibition centre and Mani Bhavan lacked that. These films are one of the best ways to learn about Gandhi’s teachings. I feel visuals are more interesting than books. All the material that we have has been categorically segregated. His thoughts on non-violence, truth and freedom struggles are just some of the categories available. The 300-square-feet centre can seat 25 people and it took only a week to develop it.”

Ujwal Nirgudkar, technical director
Ujwal Nirgudkar, technical director

The Films Centre was inaugurated by K Sankarnarayanan, Governor of Maharashtra. Also present at the event were film director Dr Jabbar Patel, journalist Kumar Ketkar, and Director of Gandhi Films Foundation Subhash Jayakar. At the event, the governor said, “The only thing people want nowadays is money. Though we are living in an independent India, we should ask ourselves about our contribution to the society.”

Use
According to Potdar, who was appointed the chairperson of the Film Foundation last month, a lot of film footage tracing important events in Gandhiji’s life were traced by Gandhi’s youngest son, Devdas Gandhi, from around the world. Since then the Foundation acquired a huge collection of films featuring Gandhi, and carefully restored and preserved these clips.

These clips were mainly used by the Films Division, Government of India, Doordarshan, Prasar Bharati, BBC London and other foreign news channels. Other than these clips, the public will have access to movies like Mahatma, Abhishap (film on untouchability), Badsha Khan (story of Sarahad Gandhi), Miracle of Non-Violence (film on surrender of dacoits from Chambal Valley) and Karenge-ya-Marenge (Quit India movement).

Ujwal Nirgudkar, who deals with the restoration of the films says, “Restoration of a clip can take around two-three months. We first chemically test the films as most of them are in 35mm, 16mm or 8mm. The films have to be cleaned and scanned, and then frame by frame restoration takes place. Most of the films on Gandhi are in black and white, and these films can be easily restored, when compared to colour films.”

Future
Jaykar, who has been associated with the foundation for more than 30 years and was felicitated by the governor at the event, says, “Today movie directors, instead of using this live footage for their movies, prefer working with actors. The essence of Gandhi is then lost. I hope now people will use these clips, to convey the life of Gandhi.” Potdar also added, “During the event, Dr Jabbar Patel suggested that we hold a Gandhi film festival. Though it’s too soon for that, we are considering it for the future. Our website, where people can view the clips online, is already under construction.”

For more information visit: www.gandhi-manibhavan.org

The Gandhi Film Foundation
After Gandhiji’s death, leaders like Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and many others founded the Gandhi National Memorial Fund in Delhi, under the Deed of Declaration of Trust dated April 15, 1949. They established 49 institutions throughout the country with a view to creating living memorials of Gandhiji in the form of institutions in the fields which Gandhiji was interested in. Gandhi Film Foundation was one of those institutions, entrusted with acquiring films and photographic material on Gandhiji from around the world, and preserving it for posterity under one roof.

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