CHENNAI:Eminent film archivist and scholar Paramesh Krishnan Nair, who is hailed as the Henri Langlois of India, was honoured with the Lenin Award 2015 for his commendable work in the field of preserving films.
The archivist, fondly known as P K Nair, is credited with having single-handedly saving and preserving over 12,000 films of which 8,000 are Indian ones, during his lifelong career.
Largely instrumental in setting up the National Film Archive of India, P K Nair was appointed Assistant Curator of the establishment a year after it came into existence. From then, till the time he retired, he worked tirelessly to save as many films as he could.
Presenting the award to him at a function organised by Tamil Studio, well-known director Govind Nihalani paid glowing tributes to the archivist.
However, it was actor, director and screenwriter Yuhi Sethu, a film conservationist himself, who stole the limelight with some startling disclosures that he made on the occasion.
“I myself am into preserving films. I have got the copyrights of close to a 110 films, which I am conserving. I am preserving three major films of M S Subbulakshmi namely Meera, Shakuntalai and Savitri. I am also conserving, among many others, the film Haridas, which was made in 1944. Sadly, we have lost films made long after that. Veteran actor Kamal Haasan once asked me if I had any of his old films. The negative of his blockbuster Devar Magan is lost forever. The same goes for Mani Ratnam’s film Thalapathi. Most of the colour films have gone into oblivion forever.
“I don’t want to mention the name of a lab, which called in producers and told them, ‘We are going to demolish this lab. So, please take away your negatives’.” Even after six months, nobody came to claim the prints. Therefore, the lab dug a huge pit and buried the prints of over 450 films. Little did they know that Cinémathèque Française would have bought those prints and preserved them.
“Why is P K Nair compared to French archivist Henri Langlois and not the British film archivist Ernest Lindgren? It is because Ernest Lindgren would conserve films based on its scientific sanctity, not on the basis of its cultural sanctity. Henri Langlois, on the other hand, was of the view that every film was a classic and that we were not eligible to judge a film. Any film made is a great film. That is what P K Nair t00 thought and that is why he is here and we have such high regards for him today,” Yuhi Sethu said.
Two other veterans — veteran journalist Film News Anandan and film conservationist Thiruninravur Santhanakrishnan — were also honoured on the occasion. Several other persons too participated in the event including cartoonist Madan and editor B Lenin, in whose name the award has been instituted.