THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: He was the man who introduced a new sensibility to many, slowly and steadily cultivating a serious film culture in Kerala. A familiar presence at the screenings and workshops, P K Nair used to go upbeat and animated at the mention of his favourite topic - cinema. The former founder-director of National Film Archive of India (NFAI) used to walk into a hall full of cineastes, watch a classic with them for the umpteenth time and later engage them in a scholarly dialogue. “I think the entire film fraternity is indebted to him for his contributions. He was not just a custodian of archives, but the man who created it,” said director K R Mohanan.
In his association with NFAI spanning three decades he had mapped Indian cinema with utmost precision and had popularised world cinema among commoners. “I knew him from the time he was working as a research assistant and librarian at Pune Film Institute. When NFAI was started he was made the assistant curator. We all loved him because he was more than an officer in-charge of the archives. He used to devote all his time building it and we have seen him putting all his personal and family affairs on the back-burner for this,” said filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan. P K Nair, who had been rightfully dubbed the ‘celluloid man’, was someone who pioneered the film society movement in Kerala. “His demise marks the end of an era. More than being a mere archivist he was the one who introduced ‘meaningful cinema’ outside academic circles. P K Nair and his late brother and editor P R Nair will definitely remain as two luminous names in the history of Indian cinema,” said director K P Kumaran.
Many illustrious students of FTII remembered him as the most helpful staff member during their academic years. “He played an important role in channeling the course of Indian cinema and taking it to a global audience. It was he, along with a professor at Pune, who started film appreciation courses,” said cinematographer Sunny Joseph.
The films he collected and screened were instrumental in shaping the career of many filmmakers. “He was a figure no film buff from the capital could miss. The films he brought here and his post-screening interactions were enormously helpful in understanding the medium of cinema. He made available an entire spectrum of films for us while we were students and upcoming filmmakers,” said director R S Vimal.