New Delhi: Film Heritage Foundation (FHF) on Sunday announced a special ceremony to present the inaugural lifetime achievement award for cinema projection “to honour film projectionists who have dedicated their lives to showcasing films on the big screen”. Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, founder of FHF, said the Mumbai-based foundation will honour three projectionists at the event, to be held on Wednesday at the city’s heritage Regal Cinema. The “labour and love” of projectionists for the medium of cinema needed to be highlighted, Dungarpur said.
“Therefore, we decided to honour these unsung heroes to give them their due. We received nominations from various parts of the country where old projectionists are still working… “As a child when seeing films in theatres, I always used to keep looking over my shoulders, curiously, at the cone of light that emerged from a dark room at the back of a cinema theatre. All the magic that light etched on a screen happened, as a pair of hands worked relentlessly behind the scene, which most of us don’t tend to acknowledge,” he told PTI. The three awardees are Mohammed Aslam Fakih of Regal Cinema; P A Salam, National Film Archives of India (NFAI), Pune; and Lakhan Lal Yadav, Amardeep Cinema and Raj Talkies, Raipur.
They will also receive Rs 50,000 each in honour of their contribution to the field, which they have served for over 50 years, both in celluloid and digital mediums, Dungarpur added. In a Twitter post, the foundation said it is “thrilled to invite you to a very special ceremony to present the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award for Cinema Projection to honour film projectionists who have dedicated their lives to showcasing films on the big screen”. Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah will serve as the chief guest at the event, the foundation said in the post. In the film industry, people forget the past very easily, Dungarpur said, adding “the old struggles to survive with the modern.” The vintage projectors and their masters may have been relegated to the back seat in the digital era, but the filmmaker said “we owe it to them for their immense contribution in the progress of cinema”.
FHF, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to supporting the conservation, preservation and restoration of Indian cinema, is also conducting a three-day workshop on film projection in practice from Monday to Wednesday. On the last day of the workshop, the foundation will screen Kamal Amrohi’s 1949 classic “Mahal” on 35 mm vintage print to celebrate the analogue-era legacy of cinema at Regal Cinema, a single-screen theatre. Two newly-restored films — “Tiger of Eschnapur” (1938) and “Nosferatu: The Symphony of Horrors” (1922) — will be screened on July 24 and July 25 respectively, as part of the workshop, added Dungarpur. “Mahal”, which marked the directorial debut of Amrohi, made Madhubala a superstar and its legendary song “Aayega Aanewala” went on to become one of melody queen Lata Mangeshkar’s first major hits.
“Made by the Bombay Talkies, which was set up in the 1930s, this film (‘Mahal’) in a way introduced the genre of romantic horror, supernatural and reincarnation theme to what we now call Bollywood. It’s a significant milestone in Indian cinema, with extraordinary cinematography, and needs to be celebrated, so we are screening it,” the FHF founder added. The screening of all three films is free, but it will be on a first-come-first-serve basis, the foundation said.
The story of “Mahal”, also starring Ashok Kumar, was set in Allahabad and centred around an opulent palace near Yamuna with German cinematographer Josef Wirsching helming the camera, and his brilliant chiaroscuro heightening the haunting appeal of the film. “The film will be screened on a 35 mm vintage print. It will be an experience to watch the movie at a place like Regal no less in Bombay, the city of cinema and Bollywood,” Dungarpur said. Regal Cinema, an iconic art deco building in the heart of Mumbai, was opened in 1933.
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