February 29, 2020
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Agnivarsha In Pune

Agnivarsha In Pune
The damage can’t be assessed in rupees. What India lost last fortnight was an invaluable piece of its heritage. Some 4,000 reels of 250 archival films were destroyed in a major fire at the ftii, Pune. Original prints of some pre-1950 classics from Prabhat, Bombay Talkies, Wadia and New Theatres, including Sant Tukaram, Achut Kanya and Dadasaheb Phalke’s cult mythological Raja Harishchandra were lost.

An inquiry has been ordered. It is, however, believed that it could have been due to faulty air-conditioning or short circuit leading to a sudden rise in temperature of the storage vault. The National Film Archives of India (NFAI) is in the midst of a storm for delaying the shifting of the priceless prints to a new, state-of-the-art safety vault.

The more important question is: will we ever get to see these classics again? The officials are quick to assure all that back-up prints are available. But experts say these prints are of inferior quality. "That’s why, despite the high inflammability of nitrate prints, the archives all over the world make special efforts to preserve them," says former nfai India director P.K. Nair. In this instance, however, 4,000 reels were stored in a single vault while not more than 300 should have been kept together.

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