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NFAI obtains 30 reels of Mahatma Gandhi's unedited footage

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Press Trust of India Pune
The National Film Archive of India (NFAI) on Friday said it has obtained 30 reels of several hours of unedited footage detailing several key events from Mahatma Gandhi's life and his death.
The NFAI said the footage, amounting to almost six hours, was taken by prominent film studios like Paramount, Pathe, Warner, Universal, British Movietone, Wadia Movietone etc.
"It is indeed a very wonderful development for NFAI, coming at a time when the entire world is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
NFAI Director Prakash Magdum said the footage has been obtained from private sources, including amateur collectors.
He said a major highlight of the discovery is a rare half an hour footage that has visuals of a special train carrying Gandhis ashes from (then) Madras to Rameshwaram.
"The stunning visuals show thousands of people thronging stations like Chettinad, Sivaganga, Chidambaram, Manamadurai junction, Ramnad and Pudukkottai junctions in Tamil Nadu, with folded hands and tears in eyes to have a glimpse of the urn carrying the Mahatmas ashes," he said.
The footage has visuals of a sea of humanity present at what looks like Marina beach in the then Madras city jostling with each other and carrying flags and banners to pay their last respects to the Mahatma, he said.
A visual showing Manilal Gandhi seems to be a rare one from the collection.
"He was the second son of Mahatma Gandhi and served as the editor of Indian Opinion a Gujarati-English weekly publication, at Phoenix, Durban in South Africa. There is a title card Mahatma Gandhis Son while showing the visuals of Manilal Gandhi at an airport.
Another important footage shows Mahatmas South India tour and Harijan Yatra in January-February 1946.
The collection has a reel that showcases the Mahatma and Kasturba engaged in various activities at Sevagram Ashram in Wardha, Maharashtra.
There are visuals of Gandhi keenly taking part in ploughing the field by a machine, tree plantation and serving the patients. An endearing visual shows Kasturaba feeding a cow in the Ashram, he said.
The collection has visuals of his last days and those of just after his death, including close-ups of his body and blood-stained clothes, newspaper reports of the day, Birla House, people thronging to have a darshan and the procession to Raj Ghat.
There are several close-up shots of Mahatma including some candid moments captured on camera.
The collection also has some rare visuals of V D Savarkar looking into the camera. There is also the exclusive footage of Haripura Congress session with shots of Subhas Chandra Bose.
Many major political leaders of the time including Pt Nehru, Sardar Patel, Sarojini Naidu and Maulana Azad figure prominently in the footage. Gandhis meeting with Ravindranath Tagore also figures in the collection. There are extensive visuals of the Mahatmas visit to the UK and France that are covered by several film studios.
This is a fascinating visual collection of the Mahatma and a real surprise to find it in celluloid format in todays times. The 35 mm footage is in Master Positive format and does not have sound. We have made duplicate negative for long-term preservation and then copied it into Release Positive, which is an exhibition format," said Magdum.
Primary inspection indicates the material is in good condition and NFAI will soon plan to digitise it, he said. "We also plan to invite scholars and historians to throw more light and get information for cataloging the entire collection, said Magdum.

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First Published: Sep 27 2019 | 7:25 PM IST

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