Tuesday, 29 November 2016

VIRTUAL REALITY, AZADI, AND CINEMA POSTERS

“Azadi 70 Saal, Yaad Karo Qurbani” (70 Years of Independence, Remember the Sacrifices) is the focus of National Film Archives of India’s (NFAI) exhibition at IFFI 2016. Last year NFAI introduced multimedia to complement their annual exhibition of film posters. This year, Virtual Reality technology has been introduced to provide a virtual tour of the NFAI headquartered in Pune, the facilities made available there, the type of archival and restoration work the organization undertakes, and how some of the most valuable films on celluloid are stored.

The present exhibition has a range of posters from various languages paired with film clips, along with the virtual reality. One can browse through the art work of such posters like Seva Sadan (Tamil, 1938), Vande Mataram (Telugu, 1939) under the category “Social Films with Political Overtones”. The category “National Leaders and Freedom Struggle” features Hum Dono (Hindi, 1961), Haqeeqat (Hindi, 1964). The artwork of films like 1857 (Hindi, 1946), Ek Kadam (Hindi, 1947), and Shaheed (Hindi, 1948) are also displayed. Visitors can also watch old propaganda and news films, all of which have been preserved at NFAI. Old black-and-white films like “Attack: The Battle for New Britain” or newsreel clips from Indian News Parade on how Indian nationalist leaders reacted to the viceroy’s decisions or the geopolitical situation off the coast of Japan are also quite interesting.

The virtual reality section of the NFAI exhibition has two parts: the first consists of the tour of NFAI and their activities; the second is more interactive, comprising a virtual exhibition of film posters. The viewer can take a virtual walk around a gallery, and read the brief note under each of the posters.It’s a positive addition to the overall experience of this annual IFFI fixture.

Director of NFAI,Prakash Magdum told The Peacock the selection of posters was done in consonance with the theme, seeking to highlight the institution’s collection of archival material on the sacrifices of freedom-fighters, social evils and developmental issues, as well as the contribution of the nation’s armed forces.
While the effort is commendable, this viewer was left feeling there could have been more archival material made available, and it could have been presented in a better way, especially since the audio-visual component can be stimulating and generate more interest in the exhibition. Magdum told The Peacock there were some practical and logistical difficulties in adding more material to the exhibition.

“The thing is that a theme-based focus is needed,” he says, citing the sheer size of the archive which holds more than 25,000 posters. The equipment needed and the requirement to keep the virtual reality clip short to accommodate as many persons as possible in a limited time frame means that there are also constraints on using such technology in the exhibition. Bearing in mind these factors, he says, “we have tried our best.”

While the theme of “70 Years of Independence…” draws on history, one needs to be sure of being objective and representative. “We have tried to take the (archival) material from all possible languages,” Magdum explains.

Considering the value of the irreplaceable NFAI archives to lay and serious cinephiles alike, one would be interested to know of the institution’s future plans. Apart from efforts to make the archival material available as much as possible to the public through social media, Mr. Magdum says “I can promise you that there will be a very interesting theme (for next year’s) exhibition.”

(A version of this article was first published in The Peacock, 22 November, 2016

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