Old Kannada Films Lost; Part of Culture Dissolved in Time

As the Government has ordered the KCA to digitize 1500 old Kannada films, the officials say that more than 80 per cent of the them are lost.

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Bangarada Manushya, one of the most popular Kannada films
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S.V Rajendra Singh, chairman of KCA
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Murthy, one of the workers at KCA incharge of the archives
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Sati Sulochana, the first Kannada film to be made
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The auto driver Simon, an avid fan of Kannada films


Bangalore, October 17, 2017: As reports of digitizing and restoring 1500 old Kannada films have emerged, the project already seems to be a facing a dead-end. AR.Prakash, the Deputy Director of the Department of Information and Public Relations, said that less than 100 old films were available in the archives. The status of the rest to convert to digital format is unknown.

Mr.Prakash of the KCA (Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy) said, “These films will be dug up by approaching producers, distributers and collectors and converting them from celluloid to digital format.”

There has been no budgetary provision to undertake the project this year; the government had allotted Rs.2 crore years ago. There has been a proposal to charge five rupees extra for non-Kannada film tickets in theatres. This move will garner the amount required for the film digitization project.

But the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) intervened saying that they would undertake the endeavor of digitizing and restoring the films at their own expense.

However, there has been no further development. “The talks with NFAI are in a stalemate now,” said Mr.Prakash.
The KCA and Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce say that most of the films are lost. “Ninety per cent of the films are lost now. Maybe 10 per cent are with us. We’re probably not going to be digitizing and restoring 1500 films. The committee formed for this project will soon meet, explore and decide what the ground reality is and what can actually be done,” saidSV.Rajendra Singh Babu, Vice Chairman of KCA.

Films like Sati Sulochana, Bangaarada Manushya and Harish Chandra are examples of timeless classics lost in time. “In the end, only 20 per cent of the films might be saved. We demanded Rs.6 crores for the project, but only Rs. 2 crore were granted. That’s why we proposed to charge Rs.5 extra for non-Kannada films,” said Sara Govindu, the president of Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce.

There seems to be a dearth of digitization labs in Karnataka to take up this project. R.K.Shivram, ex-Joint Director (2005-2015) of KCA, said, “Films from before the year 2000 are envisaged to be digitized and restored. However, there are very few companies in this line of work and that will be a huge task.” He explained that so many old films have perished due to lack of proper preservation facilities. The celluloid versions are supposed to be stacked in cold storage.

Murthy, a worker in charge of the storage in KCA, said, “There’s no AC here. That’s why these reels are melting.”
“Digitization emerged just a few years ago. We weren’t aware that this kind of technology could even be possible. If we knew we would have taken measures. Now, all that culture has been culled from posterity.” added Mr.Shivram.

Auto drivers, M.Mahesh and S.George, who profess to be connoisseurs of old Kannada films, say that films like Nishkarsha, Sangharsha, Tumbida Mane, and Gandhadagudi are great films and if any one of them is lost, they would be very upset.
“These are films which families like mine watch after a long day’s work. We would miss them if they were gone!” said George. 

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