Thank you for preserving Indian cinema’s heritage: Film world salutes P.K. Nair

Mumbai, March 4 (IANS) Calling P.K. Nair a “beloved son of cinema” for his passion for movies, their preservation and restoration, Indian film fraternity members on Friday mourned the demise of the country’s pioneering film archivist and film scholar, who set up the National Film Archive of India (NFAI).

Nair, who won the epithet ‘celluloid man’ for his impeccable body of work as the founder and former director of the NFAI, breathed his last on Friday morning at a Pune hospital following prolonged illness. He was 82.

Filmmaker and film archivist Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, whose 2012 documentary film “Celluloid Man” explored the life and work of Nair, termed Nair’s death as “the end of a great chapter”.

On an emotional note, Dungarpar, who considers Nair his “spiritual father”, told IANS: “He contributed to developing not only film archiving, but also a generation of filmmakers. He was the man responsible for NFAI.”

Dungarpur tweeted: “I am deeply saddened by the loss of my mentor P.K. Nair who taught me to love and live for cinema.”

Mumbai-based film historian SMM Ausaja told IANS: “After Feroze Rangoonwalla, this is the second blow to the world of cinema archivists. And it’s a very small niche world as it is.”

Nair’s interest in films began with 1940s Tamil mythological dramas such as “Ananthasayanam” and “Bhakta Prahlada”. His stint with the NFAI started in 1965 as assistant curator. And 17 years later, in 1982, he became its director.

When he retired in April 1991, he had collected over 12,000 films, of which 8,000 were Indian. These include the works of legendary filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, V. Shantaram, Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt; and then there were films of international stalwarts like Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Andrzej Wajda, Miklos Jancso, Krzysztof Zanussi, Vittorio De Sica, and Federico Fellini.

It is for this reason — and his lifelong dedication to his passion — that he will remains a celebrated name in the world of films.

Condolences came in from several quarters, who hailed Nair for his work in preserving the country’s rich cinematic history.

Filmmaker Hansal Mehta, who had an audience member in Nair for his movie “Aligarh” at a film festival in Mumbai, tweeted: “RIP PK Nair, celluloid man and inspiration. Privileged that he made the long trip to Regal and watched ‘Aligarh’ at MAMI. Salute.”

Actress Shilpa Shukla, referring to a bout of unexpected showers in Mumbai on Friday morning, shared: “No wonder the thunder – Rest in peace beloved son of cinema who never abandoned her. Shri PK Nair, regards and prayers.”

Veteran movie critic Anupama Chopra said that Nair had “single-handedly preserved India’s cinematic heritage”.

“We all owe you. Salute and thanks for the education and inspiration,” added the wife of celebrated filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra.

Even actress Renuka Shahane, who had once posted an exhaustive blog on Nair’s work, wrote: “Oh no really sad news! PK Nair saab no more. A great archivist who painstakingly preserved our celluloid history for us. Deep gratitude.”

Filmmaker Sangeeth Sivan shared: “His passion for cinema was unparalleled and so is his pioneering work. RIP”

Even the younger generation in Indian filmdom realises the value of Nair’s work.

“Masaan” writer Varun Grover tweeted: “PK Nair saab goes beyond the end-credits. A man who loved cinema so much that he singlehandedly discovered many lost gems and archived them. He founded and then managed NFAI for many years – literally starting the culture of film conservation and archiving in India. Legend.

“Fighting a million bureaucratic battles along the way, he never lost that bonafide film-buff zeal. Sadly, we haven’t learnt much from him. If you want to see a man become one with cinema, do watch Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s documentary on PK Nair saab – ‘Celluloid Man’. Great man, huge loss.”

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