How about a treasure hunt in Chor Bazaar to discover the history of cinema in India?

Mar 22, 2018, 08:57 IST | Snigdha Hasan

Ahead of Christopher Nolan and Tacita Dean's visit to discuss the future of film, the Film Heritage Foundation organises a treasure hunt in Chor Bazaar to engage Mumbaikars with celluloid

The history of cinema in India runs almost parallel to the history of cinema. And over a period of 100 years, the robust growth of the medium across Indian languages has been for all to see, such that the collective output of our cinema has more viewers than that of any other country in the world. Yet, every time a film reel is discarded, sold to a raddi shop, or lost to fires, vagaries of the weather or sheer apathy, we let go of a part of our film heritage.

It was this disregard for our cinematic legacy that led filmmaker and archivist Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, actor Irawati Harshe and lawyer and cinephile Teesha Cherian to establish the Film Heritage Foundation (FHF) five years ago. The not-for-profit organisation's work towards supporting the conservation, preservation and restoration of the moving image was noticed by filmmakers Christopher Nolan and Tacita Dean, who apart from their stellar body of work are known for shooting their movies on film as opposed to the more popular digital medium.

The filmmakers will be in Mumbai to discuss the theme, Reframing the Future of Film, with Dungarpur, where they will talk about the advocacy and continued use of the photochemical film in the digital age. The conversation has earlier brought together filmmakers in Los Angeles, London and Mexico City. "We are thrilled that personalities of the stature of Tacita Dean and Christopher Nolan took notice of our work and reached out graciously to support us. It is humbling for us to have such giants stand by the foundation," says Harshe.

FHF co-founders Irawati Harshe, Teesha Cherian and Shivendra Singh Dungarpur
FHF co-founders Irawati Harshe, Teesha Cherian and Shivendra Singh Dungarpur

Ahead of the visit, which has got Nolan fans in the city eagerly counting down to April 1, the foundation organised a film reel hunt in Chor Bazaar for 12 days to engage Mumbaikars with the medium. "Chor Bazaar is a veritable treasure trove of film memorabilia that draws cinephiles from across Mumbai. We felt that for someone who has not gone there, this would be a great introduction," shares Harshe. The hunt, which was launched earlier this month, gave participants clues that led to the Mutton Street in Chor Bazaar, and finally to Camera House, a repository of antiquities from the visual medium, where a 16-mm film reel was hidden. "We had our first entry in the first few hours of the announcement, and soon we had our six names, who won the tickets to the discussion," informs Harshe.

"Nolan's work is a great combination of modern cinema and film preservation. Meeting him in Mumbai is a lifetime opportunity," says Rohan Mehta, one of the winners. What are the immediate steps we need to take to conserve our films? "Create awareness among filmmakers and have a routine of submitting a copy of their film for archival purposes woven into the process of a film release," says Harshe. Hammad Khan, who heads the social media interaction of FHF, agrees. "Today, computers don't even have floppy drives. Think of it this way — new technology renders its predecessors obsolete, while film is here to stay."

Got a question? Ask Nolan and Dean
Christopher Nolan and Tacita Dean
To keep the discussion participatory, the organisers are inviting questions from the public. If your query makes the cut, it will be put to the filmmakers on April 1, with your name being announced.

On April 1, 6 pm
At Tata Theatre, NCPA.
Log on to facebook.com/ filmheritagefoundation
Call 22824567
Entry Rs 1,000 onwards

Also read: Mumbai gets ready to preserve cinema legacy, ahead of Christopher Nolan's visit

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