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Ahead of Gandhiji’s Sesquicentennial, rare films discovered

Pune (Maharashtra), Sep 29 (udaipur kiran) Days ahead of Mahatma Gandhis sesquicentennary celebrations, the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) announced discovering 30 reels of raw footage — or six hours of black-and-white films — on the Father of the Nation, shot by prominent film studios of that era, a top official said here on Friday.

NFAI Director Prakash Magdum said that the 35mm celluloid footages, unedited and stock shots with title cards inserted were shot by studios like Paramount, Pathe, Warner, Universal, British Movietone, Wadi Movietone, etc, acquired from a private unnamed source.

“There seems to be some rare footages in the collection, while many visuals are now part of available short films and documentaries, some have been used but others seem unique,” Magdum said.

The highlight is a rare 30-minute footage of a special train carrying Gandhiji’s ashes from Madras to Rameshwaram, showing thousands of weeping people with folded hands thronging stations en route like Chettnad, Sivaganga, Chidambaram, Manamadurai Jn, Ramnad, Pudukkottai and others in Tamil Nadu.

There is a sea of humanity at what appears like the Marina Beach of Madras with thousands carrying the Indian tricolor, banners to pay their last respects to the Mahatma, along with important Tamil Nadu leaders of that era.

Another rarity is some airport visuals showing Manilal Gandhi the second son of Gandhiji, who was the editor of ‘Indian Opinion’, a Gujarati-English weekly published in Phoenix, Durban in South Africa.

Mahatma Gandhi’s South India tour and Harijan Yatra of January-February 1946, shot by Projection of India Pictures, show him at Manapparai Jn., then going to pray at the temples like Sri Meenakshi in Madurai, Palani and Kumbakonam, attending the silver jubilee of Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha at Madras along with C. Rajagopalachari.

One reel focuses Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba doing various activities at Sevagram Ashram in Wardha, Maharashtra, with the Mahatma taking part in a tree plantation drive, serving the patients and ploughing the field with a machine, while Kasturba feeding a cow in the historic Ashram.

Mahatma Gandhi’s entire voyage aboard the ship “S. Rajaputana” to attend the Second Round Table Conference is covered in one reel, showing him viewing through a binocular, shaving, smiling and playing with children, spinning yarn on the deck, and at one point taking ‘charge’ of the ship with the Captain standing beside him.

There are visuals of his visit to Ahmedabad, Porbandar, Rajkot, his empty home and school with the library register displaying his name in the library register, and Gandhiji attending the annual programme of a Shivaji College somewhere in Maharashtra.

The collection has visuals of his final days before assassination, close-ups of his body and blood-stained clothes, media reports, his final darshan and the procession to Raj Ghat.

There are rare visuals of V.D. Savarkar peeping into a camera, footage of Haripura Congress Session with personalities like Subhash Chandra Bose, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Sarojinidevi Naidu, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and others, his meeting with Rabindranath Tagore, his visits to the United Kingdom and France.

Some candid casual moments like Gandhiji sharing a joke with an Englishman on a train, strolling on a beach, listening to a music player in a public meeting, exchanging and sharing a garland with a small girl, and the two only audio reels with the voice of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, known as the Frontier Gandhi.

The collection has the condolence meeting at the United Nations in New York shortly after Gandhiji’s assassination with tributes by representatives of several countries including India.

“This is a fascinating visual collection of the Mahatma and a real surprise to find it in celluloid format in today’s times. The 35 mm footage is in Master Positive format and does not have sound. We have made duplicate negative for long-term preservation and then copied it into Release Positive, which is an exhibition format,” explained Magdum.

He said the preliminary inspection indicates the material is in good condition and the NFAI will soon digitize it, invite scholars and historians to throw more light and get information for cataloguing the entire collection.

–udaipur kiran

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