Category Archives: Reportage

A glimpse of the day-to-day reporting

14 years after fire destroyed hundreds of films, lessons not yet learnt

Fourteen years since, the firefighting system at none of NFAI’s 27 vaults is functional. A decision to change the old firefighting system, installed in 1994, was taken in 2008; work started in 2015 and is still on.

January 2003 fire in nitrate vaults of the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) on the FTII campus.

ATIKH RASHID

ON January 8, 2003, fire broke out in a nitrate vault of the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) on the Film and Television Institute of India campus. In an hour and a half, all reels in the vault were reduced to ashes. Going by a statement by then MoS (I&B) Ravi Shankar Prasad in Rajya Sabha that February, NFAI lost 607 films in 5,097 reels in the fire. These included a number of pre-1950 films, including silent films from the early era of the Indian film industry, some of these by Dadasaheb Phalke and V Shantaram. NFAI asserted that most of the films destroyed had already been copied on acetate base, also called safety base since it’s less inflammable, hence the loss wasn’t as “grim as it was made out to be”. In addition to these classics, 544 reels that stored war footage in Italian, English, German and Russian were unique prints, not copied on any medium, and therefore lost from NFAI’s collection.

A high-level inquiry followed, seeking to fix responsibility and assess the safety system and suggest measures to avoid any repeat. Although the report of the inquiry was never made public, various media (including The Indian Express) reported, based on source-based information, that the committee blamed “sparks emanating from a faulty air-conditioner” in the nitrate vault and recommended that the material be transferred to freshly built vaults on NFAI’s Kothrud campus.


Fourteen years since, the firefighting system at none of NFAI’s 27 vaults is functional. A decision to change the old firefighting system, installed in 1994, was taken in 2008; work started in 2015 and is still on. The air-conditioning systems, too, break down frequently and sometimes take months for repair, according to those responsible for maintaining these systems. A picture published by Maharashtra Times in April shows pedestal fans being used to maintain the temperature in a vault, apparently due to the failure of air-conditioning.

The Principal Director Audit, Mumbai, conducted an inspection of NFAI between December 2013 and April 2015. As per its report, accessed by The Indian Express under the Right To Information Act, NFAI didn’t have enough firefighting provisions and “loss of this property (films and non-filimc material) can’t be ruled out in case of incident of fire”.”

“The films and other filmic materal acquired by NFAI were stored in temperature controlled film vaults. It’s very inflammable articles. However, during visit, of this premises it was found that there was not sufficient provision for firefighting system and not proper backup provision of valuable articles (Films). Due to non-availability of sufficient firefighting system in the premises loss of this property can not be ruled out in case of fire…,” the report states in part II(A), paragraph 2.


As per the report, when the audit team pointed this out to the NFAI administration, it was told the new firefighting system would be installed at the earliest with the work already taken up under the 12th Plan allocation for ‘upgradation of infrastructure’. “… In reply, the department accepted the fact and stated that the existing firefighting equipment installed in the film vaults is very old and is due for replacement… The work has been entrusted to CCW (E), All India Radio and same would be completed as early as possible. [The officials] further stated that regarding backup of filmic materials, guidelines from the competent authority will be obtained and action in this regard will be intimated to audit,” reads the report.

With firefighting and alarm systems yet to become functional, eight nitrate vaults and 16 safety base vaults at phase II and three underground vaults at phase I of NFAI continue to operate under the threat of fire. Asked about this, NFAI director Prakash Magdum said the work is in the “last stage of completion” and will be over within a month. “NFAI had the fire alarm system in place since 1994 along with Halon Gas fire fighting system. Eventually, Halon Gas system needed replacement with modern fire fighting system. The work is being undertaken by Civil Construction Wing (CCW) of AIR. For the first time, we are taking steps to install carbon dioxide flooding system which will be much more effective. The work at phase II is in last stage of completion and will be over within a month. This will ensure the safety of film collection including Nitrate and safety base vaults at NFAI,” said Magdum.

I B Mishra, executive engineer with CCW (Electrical), AIR, said the reason for the delay in completing work was that although the project was slated to start in 2008, funds were released only in August 2014. “The work could only start in the beginning of 2015 after release of funds. Also, since this is a very complex and specialised job with lots of designing involved, it’s progressing slowly. Nevertheless, we have in the testing phase for safety base vaults at Phase I and will commission them in one or two months. Following this we will move to other vaults,” Mishra said.

He said the air-conditioning system breaks down often because it’s operated day and night due to specific needs of NFAI. “Air Conditioning equipment were installed in 2007-08 in Phase II and aren’t very old. However, they are run 24×7 which leads to wear and tear resulting in breakdowns and need of maintenance,” Mishra said.

Locked in Mumbai lab, ‘unique single prints’ of film classics

EXPRESS RTI: The documents show, additionally, that NFAI got to know of the dispute just a month after the premises had been sealed in 2010 as the owner had approached court.

Building of Kine Sixteen Lab in Mumbai, now sealed. (Express photo by Prashant Nadkar)

ATIKH RASHID

Tapan Sinha’s Arohi (1964) was in the first lot of celluloid films that reached National Film Archive of India (NFAI) for preservation, soon after it was set up in Pune in February 1964. Arohi, which released the same year as Satyajit Ray’s Charulata, won the Silver Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival and Diploma of Merit at the London Film Festival, besides the President’s silver medal for best feature film and best story award at the National Film Awards. It was the National Film Award Committee that had sent the “release print” to NFAI.

For the last 10 years, the print has been in a now sealed building in Mumbai, out of NFAI’s reach. Arohi is one of nine “important, unique celluloid film prints” that had been sent to Kine Sixteen Lab in 2007, only to be locked up in 2010 following a dispute between the “conductor of the lab business” and the owner of the property, according to documents accessed by The Indian Express and replies received to questions under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The prints had been sent for duplication as they had become “smelly and shrunk”.

The documents show, additionally, that NFAI got to know of the dispute just a month after the premises had been sealed in 2010 as the owner had approached court. Yet NFAI officials have failed to get the custody of the prints even today — it is yet to file an intervention application in the civil court where the battle over the lab property is still on.

The films

The celluloid prints locked in the property include another Tapan Sinha film, Atithi (1965), which was nominated for four awards including the Golden Lion and Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. The other prints include Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anupama (1966).

Arangetram (1973) by Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner K Balachander marked Kamal Haasan’s debut in an adult role. Uthama Puthiran (1940) was the first Tamil film featuring an actor in a double role; it is also remembered for German technicians in the crew. Another Tamil film locked up is Ponni (1953) by A S A Sami and C S Rao. Bagha Jatin (1958) by Hiranmoy Sen portrays the life of the revolutionary freedom fighter of that name, while Veer Rajputani (1955) was directed by Jamshed “J B H” Wadia, pioneer of the action genre in Indian cinema. One film is listed as Dholak but the documents accessed do not give specifics; IMDb lists a rarely seen (just 5 votes) 1951 film of that name directed by R K Shorey, written by I S Johar and featuring Ajit.

Files read by The Indian Express show that NFAI had been sending deteriorating prints to Kine Sixteen Lab, located on the Jyoti Studio campus on Grant Road, Mumbai, for several years. It also sent celluloid raw stock, worth lakhs of rupees, for duplication of those prints. In 2007, NFAI sent 16 films including the nine that are now locked up; the rest have been returned.

NFAI director Prakash Magdum told The Indian Express that of the nine films locked inside the lab, copies of five films were in NFAI’s possession in one format or the other as per records available. On the other hand, in all its communications with the law and justice ministry, police and its lawyer, as well as in internal notes accessed by The Indian Express, NFAI has maintained that eight of the nine prints were “unique single copies”.

The effort

With work pending after the prints were sent, three years passed before NFAI officials sent an official to collect the originals and the raw stock. “It’s noticed that your landline is disconnected and you are ignoring calls on mobile which [we] find very disgusting as a business person,” NFAI film preservation officer Kiran Dhiwar wrote to Kine Sixteen “proprietor” Shyamala Ramani on April 21, 2010. “Now, we are deputing our representative to collect our film material sent for laboratory work time to time and the completed work of the subjects as per our pending orders.”

It was after this visit that NFAI officials realised that the lab had shut and been locked months earlier; that “Mrs Shyamala Ramani”, whom NFAI had addressed as “proprietor”, was “conductor of the business”; that litigation was pending between Ramani and Homsi Homi Mistry, the owner of the business as well as the premises. The laboratory was sealed after Mistry allegedly took “forcible possession” without allowing Ramani to take out her valuable articles, which included the film prints and raw celluloid stock worth Rs 35 lakh.

NFAI contacted Mistry’s lawyer requesting her to allow them to inspect the premises and take custody of the prints. According to documents, the lawyer turned down the request and asked NFAI officials to approach Gomdevi police station. The senior police inspector at Gomdevi allegedly refused to let NFAI officials in, citing the fact that the matter was pending, and asked them to approach the civil court for permission, the documents show.

Over a year more passed before NFAI officials wrote to the Union law ministry requesting it to appoint a lawyer for arguing NFAI’s case through an intervention application. Five years after that, NFAI hasn’t yet approached the court with its plea. NFAI officials said they are doing their best to get the possession of the reels.

“Kindly understand that this matter is almost 8-9 years old,” said Magdum, the NFAI director. “Initially help from police department was sought. As soon as I came to know about this matter, NFAI has initiated legal proceedings as per government process. The government counsel has been appointed in order to take up this case in the court of law for recovery of said material and we are actively pursuing the matter so that the films can be brought back.”

Advocate Vinod Joshi was engaged by the law ministry’s Department of Legal Affairs in September 2012 to represent NFAI. Till today, however, no case has been filed, documents show. “I would not comment about the matter until there are written orders to do so from the [legal affairs] department,” Joshi said, when contacted.

From Satyajit Ray to Kurosawa, over 9,200 movie prints ‘missing’

EXPRESS RTI: While National Film Archive of India (NFAI) claims to have 1.3 lakh film reels in its vaults, a private firm found in 2012 that as many as 51,500 film cans that were on record were “physically not present at NFAI”. When asked about this NFAI official conceded, for the first time, that 28,400 film reels were “disposed off” in the past.

ATIKH RASHID

IN 2010, the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) got a Pune-based private firm to paste barcodes on every reel in its custody. In 2012, Cameo Digital Systems Pvt Ltd completed the project and submitted a set of reports to the NFAI along with a “summary of inventory”.

The Indian Express accessed these reports under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and came across two startling findings:

  • 51,500 cans of film reels, and over 9,200 prints, “were not physically present” at the archives.
  • 4,922 cans containing 1,112 film titles, which are not listed in the NFAI’s registers, were present in its vaults.

The reports include a “missing” list of hundreds of culturally and historically important titles, including celluloid prints of films by Satyajit Ray (Pather Panchali, its sequel Aparajito, Charulata), Mehboob Khan (Mother India), Raj Kapoor (Mera Naam Joker, Awaara), Mrinal Sen (Bhuvan Shome), Guru Dutt (Kaagaz ke Phool) and several other giants of Indian cinema.

Prints of several international acquisitions were also missing, including films by Sergei Eisenstein (Battleship Potemkin), Vittorio De Sica (Bicycle Thieves aka The Bicycle Thief), Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai), Roman Polanski (Knife in the Water) and Andrzej Wajda (Ashes and Diamonds).

The list includes prints of over a hundred silent films from Indian and international cinema (Battleship Potemkin is one) and celluloid containing historic footage, including from the pre-Independence days.

They include prints of visits by foreign dignitaries and Indian leaders’ visits abroad in the first three decades after independence. Among the missing footage are those of Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Paris, the Indian National Congress’s Karachi congregation, and US President Richard Nixon’s address during his visit to India 1969.

On the other hand, films that were present in the NFAI’s vaults but not in its records included Mughal-e-Azam (2 reels), Bicycle Thieves, Pakeezah (8 reels), Aparajito (2 reels), Pather Panchali (4 reels), Meghe Dhaka Tara (1), The Great Dictator (13 reels), Ardh Satya (14 reels), Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (10 reels), and Hunterwali (1 reel), with a few of these also listed among those with prints missing.

An official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the NFAI had multiple copies of some of the missing films, and that the 51,500 missing cans may also include the 1,500 reels that were destroyed in a fire in 2003. The NFAI claims to have about 1.3 lakh film reels in its custody, containing 20,576 titles, which includes Indian as well as foreign films.

Contacted by The Indian Express, Prakash Magdum, director of NFAI, blamed poor record-keeping and shortage of staff for the “mismatch” in the Cameo reports. Magdum also confirmed that the institution had scrapped 28,401 reels in the past, in the first such admission by the NFAI.

One of the Cameo reports, submitted by the firm’s director Purab Gujar, describes how this mess was brought to light.

Titled ‘Go-live of the system in general and summary of inventory in specific’, the report states: “While doing the bar-coding exercise and creating data for the Libsys system we followed the below procedure: 1) Before commencing the bar-coding, we scanned all the ‘Physical Film Registers’ of NFAI and created a spreadsheet of all the entries. 2) During bar-coding, we made a separate record of all the films for which barcode pasting was carried out over the period of nine months. In this record, we mainly captured the accession numbers of each titles, the number of cans and the location of the title.”

The firm then compared the two databases to find that a chunk of films listed in the accession registers were not present at the NFAI storage facilities. Of the 9,283 missing titles, 1,439 were acquired by paying the cost of the print while 7,844 were loaned to the NFAI by various agencies, production houses or individuals, laboratories, as deposit or long-term loan for storage and preservation.

The sources of these prints include government agencies such as the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, External Affairs Ministry, Films Division, National Film Development Corporation; foreign missions in India like that of Germany, Australia, UK, Albania, and France; foreign film archives such as National Film Archive, London, Rumanian Film Archive, Russian Film Archive, Bulgarian Film Archive; and, film producers.

Among the films deposited by production houses were those made by Vinod Chopra Films (Lage Raho Munnabhai, Eklavya) and Wadia Movietone, Bombay (53 films, including Hunterwali ki Beti, Bambaiwali and Phauladi Mukka).

Asked about the Cameo findings, NFAI director Magdum said, “As per available records, 28,401 reels were disposed of in 1995 and 2008. The same has not been struck off the NFAI records. According to old staff at NFAI, similar disposal of films were carried out during the time of P K Nair (former director) for which no record is available. Further, there seems to be duplicate accession numbers given to similar titles for a large number of films (about 400) which underwent treatment during the 1980s.”

When it was pointed out that the number of films “physically not present at NFAI” was much higher than those disposed of, Magdum said that the counting by Cameo was in terms of cans whereas the records maintained at NFAI were in terms of reels. “This, I believe, is bound to show a mismatch in the final figures,” said Magdum.

When contacted, Cameo chief Gujar said, “The exercise was carried out several years ago. The true picture about the number of films present with NFAI will only emerge after an ongoing film assessment project is over.”

NFAI records accessed by The Indian Express also show that the situation at the institute’s library, which boasts of over 29,000 books on cinema, is not very different.

Stock verification reports reveal that 1,761 books have gone missing over the years. Of these, the loss of 1,509 books was discovered during a physical verification out in 2002. Another inspection, which ended in June 2017, revealed that 252 more books had gone missing.

One report states that a major chunk of the missing “books” was “ready reference resources” which “can’t be called books” and were “mistakenly registered” as such.

The records also include an audit report which states that the library had not carried out “physical verification” for 15 years in violation of General Financial Rules, according to which stock verification has to be done once in three years. Also missing from the NFAI are 401 DVDs.

(A copy of the Cameo report as recieved from NFAI can be found below.)

At National Film Archive, 14,900 celluloid reels ‘stored’ in gunny bags

These reels are “not in runnable condition” now, states the report — in other words, they cannot even be put through a film projector. Of the 17,595 film reels found stored in gunny bags in November 2015, when the inspection that led to this report was conducted, only 2,645 were found to be in “runnable condition

ATIKH RASHID

For most of the promo, their eyes are covered with strips of film as they talk about the immortality of cinema, and the need to preserve celluloid. The message delivered by the actors is clear — so is the irony behind the scene.

This three-minute film was produced by the National Film Archive of India two years ago to promote the National Film Heritage Mission, a Rs 597-crore preservation, conservation and restoration programme launched by the government in 2014. But in reality, the blindfolds could well have been on the eyes of the NFAI itself.

An internal “condition report”, accessed by The Indian Express and replies received to requests made under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, details the mess:

More than 1,100 films, contained in 14,950 reels, including rare and precious pieces of Indian and international cinema, are rotting inside 1,202 gunny bags on the second and third floors of a building inside the NFAI’s Pune campus.

According to Magdum, these films were received from the “Railway’s lost property offices”, and were of poor quality and condition. (Source: Express photo)
These reels are “not in runnable condition” now, states the report — in other words, they cannot even be put through a film projector.

Of the 17,595 film reels found stored in gunny bags in November 2015, when the inspection that led to this report was conducted, only 2,645 were found to be in “runnable condition”. But even these remained in gunny bags for several months more before being moved to customised racks under controlled atmospheres.

That’s not all.

On February 21 and 22, 2016, records show, these reels in gunny bags were shifted to a private single-storey warehouse in Chakan, about 40 km from the NFAI campus in Kothrud, without temperature control, little ventilation and leaking roofs. This was done just days before experts from India and abroad, and senior officials of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, visited the NFAI for a workshop on film preservation and restoration from February 26 that year.

According to the documents, NFAI’s administrative officer D K Sharma signed an “Octroi Certificate” to ensure that the “consignment” was not charged during transfer — the certificate valued the consignment at Rs 1 lakh. The bags were transported back to the NFAI campus two weeks after the workshop ended on March 6, records show.

The bags were transported back to the NFAI campus two weeks after the workshop ended on March 6, records show. (Source: Express photo)
“The level of neglect is such that although the reels have been with NFAI for several years, there is no proper record of the titles of these films. There is a possibility that rare ‘gems’ of Indian and world cinema could be lying there, possibly ruined by now,” said an NFAI official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Film Archive, NFAI, National Film Archive of India, cinema Archive, Indian films, Indian movies, Reel preservation,
According to the official, these film reels include documentaries produced by the Films Division, copies deposited with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) by producers and handed over to NFAI for preservation, orphaned reels of Indian and foreign films found in the parcel offices of Railways, and films seized by the Customs Department.

The NFAI was set up in 1964 as a media unit of the I&B Ministry to acquire and preserve cinematic heritage, including film and non-film material.

The NFAI was set up in 1964 as a media unit of the I&B Ministry to acquire and preserve cinematic heritage, including film and non-film material. (Source: Express photo)
When contacted, Prakash Magdum, director, NFAI, said, “These film reels were assessed, segregated and securely packed after rigorous in-house assessment activity of nearly three months in 2015. The titles thus have been identified, with multiple copies, in some cases almost 10 to 12 copies of a film. The material in good condition has been identified and put in plastic cans and stored. The damaged/decomposed material is packed in gunny bags for further necessary action such as disposing of decomposed content, which may otherwise affect the good material. Even such decomposed material is also housed in temperature-controlled conditions.”

According to Magdum, these films were received from the “Railway’s lost property offices”, and were of poor quality and condition.

However, while replying to an RTI query from The Indian Express in September 2016, the NFAI had said that it had received only 3,000 reels containing 308 film titles, including multiple copies, in the form of lost property from the Railways.

Documents reviewed by The Indian Express under RTI also show that the High Level Committee (HLC) on the National Film Heritage Mission, headed by the Secretary, I&B Ministry, held five meetings since June 2015 — but did not discuss the films in gunny bags at the NFAI even once.

The 10-member committee comprises the heads of the Film and Television Institute of India and the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, experts such as filmmakers Jahnu Barua and Rajiv Mehrotra, and senior government officials.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Barua said, “This matter never came up for discussion in the meetings so far. I’m not aware of these films. But I hope that they will be preserved as part of the heritage mission.”

It’s not just films — decaying in piles of scrap are posters, film scripts, stills, song booklets, pamphlets, and press clippings deposited with NFAI.

According to the internal report, the gunny bags have been dumped in the Service Block in phase II of the NFAI premises, which also houses over 1 lakh film stills, thousands of wall posters, nearly 2 lakh press clippings, thousands of pamphlets, film scripts and other ancillary material. Most of these were received from various libraries and individual collectors.

The inspection found that most of the paper material was tied in bundles, with layers of dust gathered over the years. Many were decomposed or got brittle due to years of neglect. Most of the press clippings were rendered illegible and had become extremely fragile.

Film Archive, NFAI, National Film Archive of India, cinema Archive, Indian films, Indian movies, Reel preservation,
Apart from being a testimony to India’s cinematic past, the film publicity material and archival clippings came to the NFAI at a cost — Rs 100 to Rs 1,000 per item depending on archival value. Documents show that in the last 14 months alone, the NFAI spent Rs 28 lakh on buying film publicity material from individual collectors.

Magdum said the NFAI started the practice of storing publicity material in acid-free boxes and folders in 2015 but did not provide specific numbers.

“The non-filmic material has not decomposed due to any neglect on the part of the organisation but every care has been taken to ensure prolonging of its life. Generally, the material becomes brittle or decomposition happens because of the age of the material. Many a times, the material received is in poor condition. However, NFAI has undertaken digitisation of this content in order to preserve the same in other medium and ensure its access to the general public and researchers at large through various modes,” said Magdum.

Asked about the reels being shifted to a warehouse last year, Magdum said the material was shifted as infrastructural work was being undertaken at the NFAI premises.

“In order to keep this material in temperature-controlled environment, the necessary infrastructure had to be created at Phase II premises. As NFAI initiated the process in August-September 2015, of installation of thermocol insulation and installation of air-conditioning and de-humidifiers equipment as a part of creation of infrastructure, it was necessary to move out the content temporarily to some other location, as NFAI did not have sufficient storage space. Once the infrastructure was created, the material was immediately brought back to NFAI to keep it in temperature-controlled environment,” he said.

The director did not elaborate on why the films were moved in February-March 2016 but said that “such a practice of keeping the material outside NFAI premises for short-term storage was prevalent in the past, too”.

From reel to rail: How celluloid prints of Bollywood movies end up in Indian Railways’ lost property offices

NFAI officials say celluloid prints were often dumped by producers and distributors after they lose all their financial value. After spending months, or years, in lost property offices of Indian Railways many of the prints end up at the National Film Archive of India.

Among the films that have made their way to Natinal Film Archive in this manner include national award winners such as Chandni Bar and even blockbusters such as Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and Munnabhai MBBS.

ATIKH RASHID

NOT all films have happy endings. A few have endings sadder than others. An RTI query by The Sunday Express shows that as many as 308 films contained in over 3,000 reels have made their way to the National Film Archives of India (NFAI) over the years, after spending long durations in the lost property offices of Indian Railways across the country.

NFAI officials say these are film reels that have been dumped by producers and distributors as these no longer hold any financial value for them. The films include national award winners such as Chandni Bar and even blockbusters such as Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and Munnabhai MBBS.

Although most of the reels the NFAI has received are of Hindi films, there are Malayalam, Marathi, English, Telugu, Kannada and Russian films as well. These are feature films and documentary films, and newsreels broadcast by Doordarshan in the 1980s.

Says NFAI Director Prakash Magdum, “They (the producers and distributors) book a parcel with the film reels to addresses that don’t exist, or no one comes to collect it at the office. These lie with the parcel office and then finally end up in the Lost Property Department of Railways, where they lie for weeks or months.”

In the old days, when films used to be shot on nitrate, filmmakers would sell the reels that were returned to them after their theatrical run was over to dealers, who would extract silver from them. From the 1990s, most of the films started getting shot in acetate and polyester, which don’t yield the producers any significant financial remuneration. At most the film can be melted and used in bangle manufacturing. Since 2011-2012, filmmaking and distribution has gone almost entirely digital, making physical prints redundant.

With space at a premium, the major reason producers want to get rid of the reels is that they don’t have place to store them.

R Y Joshi, the Deputy Chief Commercial Officer with Western Railway, from where a majority of the reels have come to the NFAI, says, “I remember years ago there was a circular from the Railway Board concerning the unclaimed film reels. It said that if that we have any unclaimed film reels, we should get in touch with the NFAI as they have some use for them. So we follow that instruction.”

The RTI reply shows that the NFAI has received reels from Mumbai (Western Railway), Visakhapatnam, Thiruvananthapuram, Bengaluru and Gaya. The NFAI preserves these films for archival purposes.

Director Magdum says that each and every film shot on celluloid is important to them from archival point of view. “Now, since the digital medium has taken over and almost 100 per cent industry output is digital, every film shot on celluloid needs to be rescued and each holds historical and cultural importance.” Just a few days ago, he was informed about “four-odd boxes” of reels lying with the lost property office in Mumbai, he says.

Some of the film’s whose reels have made it to the NFAI from lost property offices include Shyam Bengal’s Mammo (1994), Amitabh Bachchan’s debut film Saat Hindustani (1969), Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Aks (2001), Sudhir Mishra’s Chameli (2004), Mithun Chakraborty’s hit Disco Dancer (1982), Martin Scorcese’s Gangs of New York (2002), and Anant Balani’s Joggers’ Park, apart from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), Madhur Bhandarkar’s Chandni Bar (2001), and Rajkumar Hirani’s Munnabhai MBBS (2003).

Reels of 11 Russian films have come to the NFAI, including that of the 1990 comedies Deja Vu and Pasport.

How four-ward panel system helped BJP win municipal corporation elections

A closer look at the voting pattern among all nine municipal corporations out of ten (as BMC continued with ward system), shows that voters often chose to vote for a single party while choosing for all four members in a panel.

In Pune, single party voting took place in 17 out of 41 panels; the BJP won 14 of them. (Source: Pavan Khengre)

ATIKH RASHID

THE state government’s decision to go with a four-ward panel seems to have played a major role in the BJP’s unprecedented win in the municipal corporation elections. A little number crunching makes it amply clear that the panel system with an average voters count of 70,000-80,000 prompted voters to think in terms of parties instead of candidates while voting. With its continuing popularity in the state as displayed in the general and assembly polls, the BJP gained from the panel formations.

A closer look at the voting pattern among all nine municipal corporations out of ten (as BMC continued with ward system), shows that voters often chose to vote for a single party while choosing for all four members in a panel.

For example, in Nagpur out of total 38 panels with each having four wards, in 21 panels voters gave all four votes to a single party. In 19 of these 21 panels, winners were BJP candidates. This essentially means almost 70 per cent (78 candidates) winners of the total 108.

In Pune too, single party voting happened in 17 out of 41 panels, with the BJP winning 14 of them. In PCMC, voters in 14 out of 32 panels voted in this manner, out of which the BJP managed to win 12.

When the announcement about the four-ward panel was made by the state government last year, party leaders from the Congress, the NCP, the Shiv Sena and the MNS had expresed their reservations saying the decision by the Fadnavis government would affect them badly and give an edge to the BJP. They also alleged that the panel structuring was done as per the convenience of BJP candidates. All allegations of favour to the BJP were denied by the party as well as by election officials who played a part in delimitation.

However, political analysts like Chandrakant Bhujbal believe the new panel system played a considerable role in the BJP’s win. “I would give a 20-30 per cent credit to the four-ward panel system. The new panel system helped them encash the party’s popularity in addition to local factors. The larger panel and four votes per voter means that party assumes more importance than the candidates,” said Bhujbal.

As per Manasi Phadke of Ghokale Institute of Politics and Economics, the BJP party workers used the four-ward panel to mislead voters into casting votes to their party.

“We received several complaints from the voters that party workers were telling them that they have to vote for all four candidates from a single party, failing which their vote will be adjudged invalid,” she said.

As NIA drops charges against six accused in 2008 Malegaon blast, protest, anger at ground zero

Outrage was the overriding emotion in this power-loom hub, among families of those killed in the blasts, politicians, lawyers and those discharged by a court last month in the 2006 blasts case.

Nisar Shah (35), whose lost his father to the Malegaon blasts of 2006, at his residence on Friday. (Photo By Pavan Khengre)

ATIKH RASHID

Not a surprise, legally wrong, calculated move. These were just some of the words that echoed in Malegaon on Friday after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) dropped the names of six accused, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, from its chargesheet in the 2008 blasts case.

Outrage was the overriding emotion in this power-loom hub, among families of those killed in the blasts, politicians, lawyers and those discharged by a court last month in the 2006 blasts case. The NIA move also triggered protests by local units of the Congress and Samajwadi Party.

The twin blasts occurred in the congested Bhikku Chowk on September 29, 2008, on the night of Shab-E-Qadr as residents were out shopping for Eid.

“Why is the NIA so keen to give Sadhvi and others a clean chit? You see the way we were treated despite the investigating agency not having a shred of evidence and now you see these people getting a soft treatment from the same agency and the government. But this hasn’t come as a surprise at all, this was expected,” said Raees Ahmad, who was among those discharged by a Mumbai court last month in the 2006 blasts case.

Nisar Shah, 35, whose father 65-year-old Harun Shah died in the blast, said the accused deserved punishment.

“My father had gone out for tea after offering namaz. He was badly injured in the blasts and died the next day. We don’t know much about the case, but I remember a woman in saffron clothes being arrested. If she has done it, she should be punished,” said Shah, a father of four who works as a labourer in a power loom.

“It’s a calculated move by the BJP government and we knew it was coming,” said Aseef Shaikh, the Congress MLA who represents the region in the Maharashtra assembly.

Freelance journalist Mubasshir Mushtaq questioned the NIA’s contention that the motorcycle on which the bombs were planted was linked to Sadhvi Pragya but she had not used it for the two years leading up to the blasts.

“She can’t be absolved of all charges at the investigation level itself,” said Mushtaq.

“This is similar to the argument adopted by Rubina Menon in the 1993 serial blasts of Mumbai. The elderly woman is behind bars for life for owning the Maruti van which was found abandoned at Worli with AK-56 rifles and hand grenades. She had also argued that she wasn’t using the car and didn’t know to drive,” said Mushtaq.

Lawyer Irfana Hamdani, who had defended some of the 2006 blasts accused, argued that the evidence against all accused in the 2008 case was stronger than that against the nine Muslim men who were discharged in the earlier case.

“There are at least a dozen CDs containing audio and video evidence which sheds light on the conspiracy and the role played by Sadhvi. There are also a number of documents, apart from the ownership of the bike which was used to plant the bombs. The law says that material and documentary evidence should weigh over the oral testimony of witnesses. If the NIA is giving her a clean chit, saying there are testimonies which support her innocence, then it’s legally wrong,” said Hamdani, who stays about 100 metres from the blast site.

House for former President Pratibha Patil expands from 2,906 sq ft to 6,000 sq ft

The bungalow, which is being ‘renovated and refurbished’ by the Central Public Works Department, has doubled in size after a special exception was made to sidestep rules that limit the area of a former President’s house.

In April 2012, when she was three months away from the end of her term, then President Pratibha Patil gave up the palatial bungalow that was being built in Khadki, Pune,to serve as her post-retirement residence, after it got mired in controversy.

Subsequently, the Centre identified and allotted to her what was considered a rather modest bungalow named Raigad near Chatuhshringi Hills on Pashan Road.

It has now come to light that the size of this bungalow,which is being “renovated and refurbished” by the Central Public Works Department,has doubled in size after a special exception was made to sidestep rules that limit the area of a former President’s house.

In July 2012,when the Union Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) took possession of the bungalow which was the official residence of the director of police wireless it had a built-up area of 2,906 sq ft. During renovation,this has gone up to over 6,000 sq ft.

The President’s Pensions Rules, 1962, say that if a former President is provided accommodation on a leased property,the living area should not exceed 2,000 sq ft.

The MoUD has taken the bungalow on lease from the Maharashtra government on an annual rent of Re 1. Sources said that while MoUD was willing to pay rent at market rates,the state government decided to lease it “almost free of cost.

MoUD secretary Sudhir Krishna said an exception to the living area rule was made by the Union home ministry for Patil,who is expected to move in around mid-May.

“The rules were made by the home ministry and they have made a relaxation in this case. They have approved the construction plan of the bungalow. It’s their mandate. Our job is to construct what we have been asked to construct. The rule is there but a relaxation can also be made by the concerned ministry,” Krishna told The Indian Express.

Work on the bungalow started in December 2012 and the structure has since undergone a complete overhaul. Several new rooms have been added for Patil,her office and her staffers.

The house plan shows it has two bedrooms, a master bedroom, a living room, a lounge, a dining room,a dressing room,a library,a pooja room,a kitchen-cum-store room, a separate store room,a visitors lounge, an office for the ex-President,a porch,a covered courtyard,five toilets,an office for the personal assistant, five staff quarters, a security cabin, a guards room and a one-room-kitchen unit for the staffer.

A recreational ground will be developed on 5,670 sq ft comprising a lawn and other garden essentials. The total size of the plot is 56,239 sq ft and the CPWD tender said it estimated the cost of the entire renovation at Rs 1.03 crore. Officials refused to disclose the value of the final contract.

CPWD also issued a separate tender for horticultural at an estimated cost of Rs 6.66 lakh.

Under the agreement between the state government and MoUD,the bungalow will remain with the MoUD until either Patil or her spouse is alive. It will then be returned to the state government which has to pay MoUD the expenditure incurred on the renovation

40 trees axed in agricultural college campus, 60 more to go ahead of President Pratibha Patil’s visit

Some college officials said that giving the President an unhindered sight of the new building from the approach road played an important part in cutting down the branches as they covered a good portion of the building.

ATIKH RASHID

President Pratibha Patil’s scheduled visit to the College of Agriculture,Pune,on June 10 to inaugurate its new building has proved costly for the green cover of the college,with the garden department of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) granting permission to axe over 100 branches of 59 trees for security reasons.


Already, branches of about 40 trees mainly located in front of the new Centenary Building and on the approach road from the Mhasoba Gate to the building,perceived as a security threat,have been chopped off.

The college authorities had sought permission on May 31 and the garden department granted it the next day. The list of 59 includes 36 rain trees,eight neem trees,eight ashoka trees and two tamarind trees aged between 35 and 45 years. Of the 40 branches chopped off,many were healthy and leafy and had a diameter of 40 to 50 centimetres.

The decision was apparently taken by the college authorities following an inspection by University Vice-Chancellor and the college principal a week ago. “In our proposal,we submitted a list of dead and drooping branches of trees in front of the new building and on the road and said they needed to be cut off so that they do not pose a security threat to the President during her visit. The PMC garden officials inspected the trees and cut down branches according to their criteria. Our men didn’t even touch the trees,” said Dr B R Ulmekh, Associate Dean and Principal of the College. Ulmekh added that the college plants thousands of trees every year on and outside the campus.

Some college officials,however,said that giving an unhindered sight of the new building from the approach road played an important part in cutting down the branches as they covered a good portion of the building.

Preeti Sinha, assistant garden superintendent, garden department, maintained that her officials had inspected the trees and given permission for cutting down only dead and drooping branches. She,however,couldn’t explain as to how her office had given a blanket permission to cut 100 branches and not used their discretion to save at least some of them.

“The college had asked for permission for security reasons. The rain tree branches are generally weak and could fall. We only gave permission to cut branches that were probable threats,” said Sinha.

The new palatial building has been built by the college at an expense of about Rs 15 crore. The money came from the Rs 100 crore special grant given to the Mahatma Phule Agriculture University,Rahuri,by the Union Government in 2008-09.

High Court asked the College to transplant 21 trees, it transplanted nine, none has survived

The Agriculture College,which has a full-fledged horticulture department and professors with technical know-how,has failed to successfully transplant 21 trees as directed by the Bombay High Court.

The college had approached the HC in 2010 for permission to fell 67 trees that were on the sites planned for a centenary building and a new block for a girls’ hostel.

According to document accessed by The Indian Express under RTI, the HC on April 1, 2010, permitted the college to cut down 43 trees and directed it to transplant 17 for the centenary building. The court also allowed the college to fell three trees and transplant four from the girls’ hostel site.

The trees to be shifted from the centenary building plot were 13 mango (10 to 15 year old), two Tabebuia (10 years) trees, a Sindi and a jackfruit (10 years) tree. Four trees to be transplanted from the plot of girls hostel building were a 60-year-old Indian Coral Tree (Pangara), a 30-year-old Rain Tree, a 20-year-old tamarind and a 20-year-old jamun tree.

According to sources,only six mango trees were actually transplanted almost all of which are now dead due to neglect. The three trees that were transplanted from the girls’ hostel site are also dead.

A J Bhagat, assistant engineer, Agriculture College said, “We had appointed a professional agency for transplantation. Some trees were not fit for transplantation. Some died after they were transplanted despite us taking due care.” He said he was not aware if all the 21 trees were transplanted; the horticulture department was responsible for the actual work. Horticulture department officials, however,were not available for comment.

Sunil Kesari, garden superintendent and tree officer of PMC, said it is the responsibility of the college to look after the trees and ensure that they survive for at least three years from the date of transplantation. “If the trees have died before three years, then it’s a serious violation. We will send a notice to the college authorities,” he said.

In Pune District, Zilla parishad schools are losing 10,000 students a year

No amount of wooing students through free uniforms,food and textbooks seems to help Zilla Parishad-run schools as the number of students in ZP-run primary schools in the district has come down by 10,000 in one year.

ATIKH RASHID

NO amount of wooing students through free uniforms,food and textbooks seems to help Zilla Parishad (ZP)-run schools as the number of students in ZP-run primary schools in the district has come down by 10,000 in one year.

While parents and experts are blaming poor quality of education in ZP schools as compared to that in private schools,ZP education officer Dattatraya Shendkar says the decline in number of students is due to “fall in birth rate in recent years”.

According to official data available with ZP Education Department,in 2010-11,there were 3,613 ZP primary schools (from Classes I to VII) in the district that had 2,66,372 students on the roll.

This year (2011-12),while the number of schools have gone up by 112 to 3,725,the number of students has come down to 2,56,347. The most steep decline has been in Haveli,Bhor,Indapur,Junnar and Mulashi.

According Shendkar,the reason for the decline in the number of students is the changing population dynamics in the country. “The effforts that the government had been taking for population control has paid off. There is a fall in birth rate which is the the main reason for the decline in number of students in the ZP primary schools. I estimate that the number will keep going down (with the decrease in the birth rate),” said Shendkar who,at the same time admits that number of student getting admission in Class I is high (46.407 in 2011-12).

When asked if emergence of private primary schools,Marathi and English,in rural parts of the district could have played a role, Shendkar said they also could have played a minor role in the decline.

“There are hardly any private primary schools in the villages. There are few at the taluk headquarters but students from distant villages can’t go there and they depend on ZP schools,” said Shendkar. But according to educationist Ramesh Panase,it’s “ridiculous” to link the dwindling rate of students in ZP schools to birth rate.

The inclination of parents towards the private schools as opposed to government schools is a nationwide phenomenon and the major reason for this is parents’ perception that their child will not get good quality education in government schools as compared to private schools.

“Another reason is that parents are preferring English medium schools for their children as they want them to be fluent in the language and very few ZP schools offer English medium education,” said Panase.