Monday, July 02, 2018

Report that prompted Ministry to take action pointed out ‘unacceptable conditions, irreversible loss’ at NFAI

Indian Express: National: Monday, July 02, 2018.
National Film Archive of India (NFAI) on Law College Road, Pune
A report by a filmmaker and a senior bureaucrat, who conducted a surprise inspection of the film storage vaults at the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) in April, has pulled up authorities of the Archive over several issues.
It was after perusing this report that then Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani had decided to set up a five-member committee to probe the various issues plaguing the NFAI, said sources in the ministry.
The three-page preliminary report prepared by filmmaker Shaji N Karun and Joint Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ashok Kumar Parmar and accessed by The Indian Express via the Right To Information (RTI) Act mentioned several shortcomings in the upkeep of storage vaults, as well as in the functioning of the National Film Heritage Mission (NFHM), a film preservation and restoration project by the Centre. The report also recommended a detailed inquiry and proposed that the utilisation of funds under the NFHM should be probed by a separate committee to ascertain if the expenditure on the mission was productive.
The first paragraph of the report, signed by Karun and Parmar, stated, “From the physical assessment of the film storage vaults, it was felt that the maintenance of vaults is not being done properly. Vaults no. 8, 10 and 11 were found to be unclean and dusty. Even heritage films were found to be canned in rusty tins. An early assessment is required to see how many of the films are affected by the chemical deterioration through unacceptable archival conditions. The top administration clearly lacked on this heritage mission, therefore the delay in understanding the valued responsibility”.
The report also pointed out the prevalence of ‘vinegar syndrome’ the decomposition of film prints due to failure to maintain the ideal temperature and humidity in a couple of vaults, and termed it a “complete failure on the NFAI’s part”.
“Vaults no. 8 and 11 suffer from acetate syndrome, which must not happen in any film archive and displays a complete failure on the National Film Archive of India’s part. The foul smell in the vaults is too strong and unbearable due to the vinegar syndrome. It also means that other films kept in the same vault under ideal conditions are being affected. It’s a serious question to probe this issue immediately to know why this has happened at NFAI, an organisation responsible for preserving films in ideal conditions. It needs intense action so that it doesn’t happen again, and also to identify people who are responsible for this irreversible loss,” stated the report.
The preliminary report further pointed out issues such as lack of maintenance of log books at the storage facility to record movement of film prints. “No log books are maintained at the vaults, hence it’s not known if some decomposed films are stored or removed form the vaults,” it stated.
The report also criticised NFAI Director Prakash Magdum for “failing” to convene meetings of the high-level committee on NFHM.
“The failure of this has resulted in getting the advice… of the experts in right time. It was the duty of the NFAI and its current director to undertake the accountability of this high vision and its realisation, without the loss of the time, as film is perishable material… The expert members’ views expressed at the (HLC) meetings are very important since they are… only professional source for NFAI, since its current director and OSD for this mission have no technical qualification on the preservation of films,” stated the report.