According to a report, as many as 51,500 film cans have gone missing from the National Film Archive of India (NFAI), which claims to have 1.3 lakh film reels in its vaults.
A Pune-based private firm Cameo Digital Systems Pvt Ltd, which was given the task of barcoding all the reels in the possession of NFAI in 2012, found that 51,500 cans of film reels and over 9,200 prints “were not physically present” at the archives. Additionally, “4,922 cans containing 1,112 film titles, which are not listed in the NFAI’s registers, were present in its vaults”.
This information formed a part of a set of reports that the firm submitted to NFAI along with a “summary of inventory”. The Indian Express got access to these reports under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The ‘missing films list’ includes a number of historically and culturally important films. The films include those made by Satyajit Ray (Pather Panchali, its sequel Aparajito and 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, the report adds.
Not just films made by Indian directors, several international films have also gone missing. These include works of 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).
National and international films from the silent era too are in the list.
Apart from films, footage from real historical events from pre-Independence India have also disappeared. These include 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.