Pune-based National Film Archive of India’s latest acquisition of 31 films offers unexpected delights
The vaults of the Pune-based National Film Archive of India (NFAI), the country’s premier film repository, continued to be enriched with films from the golden era of Hindi film with the acquisition of 31 rare titles.
The crown jewels in the NFAI’s latest collection include six films starring prolific film-maker and actor Master Bhagwan, popularly known as ‘Bhagwan Dada’ due to his penchant for wrestling.
Speaking to The Hindu, NFAI Director Prakash Magdum said the acquisition was significant as it showcased a near-forgotten actor-comedian, whose style was to meld social issues with conventional entertainment.
“Bhagwan Dada, born Bhagwan Palav in Maharashtra, came from an extremely humble family… While his biggest hit was undoubtedly the socially conscious Albela in the early 1950s, the films that we have acquired give a wonderful insight into the film-making process of the late 1940s and 1950s in features that had lower budgets yet aspired to deliver quality entertainment,” Mr. Magdum said.
Lalach (1948) and Bachke Rehana (1949) were two of the films that Bhagwan acted in and directed. Others in the list include Sinbad the Sailor (1952) – a Bollywood version of the Arabian nights, which paired south Indian actor Ranjan with Nirupa Roy.
“At least eight among these 31 films are extremely hard to find and are fortunately in good condition. Both films directed by Bhagwan had music by the great C. Ramchandra,” Mr. Magdum said.
The collection was also extremely unique as it showcased a number of legends in their period of “false starts” before they found their respective metiers within film-making. Some of the films had Manna Dey composing music, Talat Mahmood trying his hand as the “leading man”, and Roy and Lalita Pawar’s early performances as heroines.
Most of these films were in black and white, and in the 16 mm format.
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