Express reports prompt I&B to conduct surprise check at NFAI

Joint Secretary (Films) at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ashok Kumar Parmar, and Karun, arrived unannounced on Wednesday morning and visited all 19 storage vaults on NFAI’s premises at Law College Road and Kothrud. The two will submit a report to the I&B Ministry about their inspection.

ATIKH RASHID

Taking cognisance of a series of reports published in The Indian Express on the state of affairs at the National Film Archives of India (NFAI), a senior official from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) and veteran filmmaker Shaji N Karun on Wednesday made a surprise inspection of the storage facilities at the institution.

Joint Secretary (Films) at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ashok Kumar Parmar, and Karun, arrived unannounced on Wednesday morning and visited all 19 storage vaults on NFAI’s premises at Law College Road and Kothrud. The two will submit a report to the I&B Ministry about their inspection.

“We have taken note of the issues that we found during our inspection and all this will be conveyed to the ministry,” Parmar told The Indian Express. Karun said that “being a film person”, I&B Minister Smriti Irani was herself concerned about the issues highlighted in the reports of The Indian Express, and that was the reason she had sent Parmar and him for a ‘preliminary inspection’.

“We will write a report and submit our observations to the ministry. This might be followed by a more detailed inquiry,” said Karun.

The Indian Express had reported on March 30 that NFAI often failed to maintain the desired temperature and humidity levels within its vaults, as a result of which several film reels had started showing signs of permanent damage. Data obtained by this newspaper pertaining to an ongoing assessment of film reels stored at NFAI showed that of the 58,670 reels checked till the end of November 2017, only 17,052 had remained unaffected by vinegar syndrome, a term used to describe the deterioration in acetate-base films. A total of 27,387 reels were in various stages of vinegarisation — from being mildly affected to being in a rapidly decomposing state — while 14,231 had reached a stage of irreversible damage.

Asked about its observations on the storage facilities at NFAI, Karun said the situation was “bad”. “In one of the vaults, we could not stand (due to the foul smell). We had to come out quickly,” he said.

Parmar said the ministry had also formed a committee to review the work being done under National Film Heritage Mission (NFHM) at the NFAI. The NFHM is a nearly Rs 600-crore project aimed at conserving, digitising and preserving the celluloid heritage of the country. Launched in 2014, it is being implemented by the NFAI. “A three-member committee will review the work being done under NFHM. The committee will inspect the financial as well as physical matters. It’s likely to visit NFAI next week,” said Parmar. The committee comprises Parmar, Additional Secretary and Financial Advisor Ali R Rizvi, and Senior Economic Advisor Rohit Kumar Parmar. In September last year, The Indian Express had published a series of news reports bringing out the findings of an internal NFAI assessment, which had claimed that as many as 51,500 film reels that were on accession records of the Archive were not physically present in its vaults.

The reports had also pointed out that thousands of film reels at NFAI had been lying dumped in gunny bags, that even after a major fire incident in 2003, the archive lacked fire-fighting capacity, and that nine important film prints were lying in a sealed film lab in Mumbai where NFAI had sent them for copying way back in 2007.

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