2011-2020DocumentaryIndiaShivendra Singh Dungarpur

Shivendra Singh Dungarpur – Celluloid Man (2012)

A short excerpt from the booklet essay by Mark Cousins.

India’s is partially an oral culture, many of the great stories are preserved in people’s memories, but Celluloid Man shows that, in the movie world, Nair wanted to change that. He wanted to make a physical memory bank, a depository of film prints, a place you had to cool and dust. It’s the physicality of his story that is striking: the long taxi rides to the relatives of Phalke, the country’s first feature director, to see if they have any rolls of film in their home; the bang on the door at 3am because a filmmaker must see Pasolini’s The Gospel According to Matthew there and then; the stripping of miles of 35mm negatives to harvest their silver to make jewellery. It’s a pre-digital epic.

Like all epics, Nair’s story has revelations. One of its first is his arrival in Pune, where the great old Prabhat Studios were, in 1961. Walking through the ageing sound stages, he says that he “entered the space” of cinema in that year. He shows us where a pond could be made on the studio floor, and the great cranes which still work and, in doing so, we can almost see how cinema took him in its arms. The “studioness” of movies is the magical, otherworldly property that many of us first fell in love with and which caused our cinephilia. As much as anything, Celluloid Man is a story of cinephilia.

It is, of course, an Indian story. Nair rightly says “We are a film conscious nation”, though India is more like a continent than a nation. Many of the great Indian film people – Gulzar, Ramesh Sippy (who made Sholay), Shyam Benegal, Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan – are here, talking about Nair. Each is a world of cinema, a hyperlink to film styles, stories, cultures, times. If you know their work, see this film, if you don’t, see this film. If you’ve seen Kaagaz ke Phool, or if you haven’t, this movie is for you. It captures how each part of India has its own films, based on its own language, and also “All India” Hindi cinema, what we now call Bollywood, which floats like a cloud about the country.

Mark Cousins’ complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the DVD release.

1.80GB | 2h 29mn | 688×368 | avi


Language:English, Hindi, Bengali, Kannada
Subtitles:English (hard)

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