As an eight year-old boy, P K Nair had his first film-viewing experience at the Sree Padmanabha theatre in the city. For watching the movie, he purchased an economy class ticket and sat royally on the white sand laid on the floor inside the theatre. Ten times older now, he was in the same theatre this IFFK. A familiar presence at all editions of the festival, this time he sat down at the theatre this time to watch ‘Celluloid Man’ directed by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, a film based on his life and contribution to Indian cinema. He had wished to be a film-maker but instead, had made a mark as a ‘collector’ of films and in spearheading the National Film Archive of India for years. “My family was not convinced about the idea of my becoming a film-maker. And I was destined to be a film archivist,” he says.
Film archiving is not plain-sailing as it require a lot of passion, dedication and interest from the person. “Film archiving is not as glamorous a profession as film making. One should willingly set aside the glamour aspect and must keep in mind that everything you do is for generations to come,” he says. Knowledge about films and awareness about the history of films, he says, are essential for a film-archivist. He is confident that film-archiving can even be taught as a course.
Nair admits that it is not a cushy 10 to 5 job. This is substantiated in the documentary by his daughter Beena who says it was very rare to see their father at home in the evenings and how her mother carefully monitored the family affairs.
Speaking on his film, Nair says, many of his students had before approached him for making a documentary on him. “After a while, I realised Dungarpur was serious about it as he was documenting it on film than in digital form, which came as quite a surprise for me,” he smiles. When asked about this student, he hardly remembers teaching him. Post retirement in 1991, he took classes at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) at Pune and Shivendra Dungarpur belongs to the 1994 batch. The filming started two years ago in 2010 and was completed in June 2012.
“Before filming, he sought my opinion in preparing a list of people related to me and my work. Yet, all the bytes could not be included in the film as it would have made it too long,” he says.