From 1950s’ projectors to posters, Jaya’s museum offers unique flashback

The collection includes film prints of ‘Bhargavi Nilayam’, Walt Disney’s ‘Jungle Book’, Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’ and I V Sasi’s ‘Iniyenkilum’.
The 16MM projector and the film box at Jaya Kamath’s house in Kochi
The 16MM projector and the film box at Jaya Kamath’s house in Kochi Photo | A Sanesh

KOCHI: At an old house in the heart of Kochi, 71-year-old Jaya Kamath has maintained everything a film enthusiast would love to see and learn about. Film projection equipment from the 1950s to early 1990s and the posters of films like Bharathan’s ‘Nidra’ (1981), S Ramanathan’s ‘Naadodikal’ (1959) and I V Sasi’s 1982 cult classic ‘Ee Naadu’, besides many more, occupy a pride of place at her home near the Ernakulam south railway station.

Jaya’s collection has the RCA 400 speaker of the 1980s, G B Bell and Howell 16mm projector from Chicago, blocks for notice printing, film strip projectors, and 8mm, 16mm and 35mm films -- all having historical importance -- preserved neatly and carefully for the future generations of film enthusiasts. The collection includes film prints of ‘Bhargavi Nilayam’, Walt Disney’s ‘Jungle Book’, Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’ and I V Sasi’s ‘Iniyenkilum’.

With the support of documentarian V K Subhash, Jaya was able to restore the nearly ruined projectors, films, posters, and speakers, transforming the house into a museum. “These items were almost damaged. The workers who came to renovate the house dumped them in a room without realising their worth. Later, I contacted Subhash to prepare a documentary of these things, and we decided to exhibit it at home,” said Jaya.

The original 5ft long poster of 
I V Sasi’s ‘Meen’ released in 1980
The original 5ft long poster of I V Sasi’s ‘Meen’ released in 1980Photo | Special Arrangement

Her husband Balakrishnan Kamath, who passed away in 2015, was similar to the reel-life character of Madhavan in Blessy’s 'Kaazhcha' -- a projector operator. The couple used to travel across the state to screen films during the late 1950s to early 1990s. “All he wanted in his life was to screen good films for youngsters. To show film prints to the public, we either rented or transported film prints from Madras,” she continued.

Though Balakrishnan stopped the ‘craze’ following health issues, he preserved the materials for the future. It took three months for Subhash to clean, revive and set up the museum.

“I was approached by Jayamma to prepare a documentary of these articles. I thought it needed to be kept preserved so that the next generation could see and understand how the movie was watched and enjoyed by people in the years gone by,” Subash said.

In the company of Jaya, he is set to launch a documentary on the collection of posters and other materials. “Films were mostly screened on projectors in rural areas. The demand began to decrease as TV gained popularity. Now, the way people perceive films has also changed,” Jaya said.

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