Its his 80th birthday,but at his house a few blocks from the National Film Archives of India (NFAI) on Law College Road there are absolutely no give-away signs. No festoons or animated gathering,just friends and admirers dropping by at random. One friend walks in with a packet of figs,wishing him Happy Birthday,getting an amused smile in
P K Nair,founder of NFAI and popularly known as The Celluloid Man of India,likes it that way. I dont like celebrating birthdays, he says in a frail yet firm voice. Push for a reaction on the big 80 and he shoots back with witty repartee – That is the problem! If theres any sympathy being offered,Im not gathering it.
I have never felt that health is an impediment to work and have managed to do whatever I have planned to. I havent had to cancel programmes yet and I am thankful to God for that, says the countrys first film archiver.
But Nair has had his share of rough days.Sometime back I had a meeting in the morning at a place around 30 minutes from my place. So I had to get ready around 7am. While getting ready,I fell in the bathroom and hit the back of my head. It was painful and I had difficulty in walking but I managed to get there and even managed to give a short speech, he says,adding that he would actually much rather discuss matters of academic interest.
The soon-to-be-released Celluloid Man by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur,a tribute to the guardian of cinema,is clearly a subject of interest. Its wonderful and has made me immortal in ways, he says.
Nair says that when Dungarpur first approached him for making the film on him,he thought of the filmmaker as one of the many students out on the project. But after interacting with him for 10 days,I realised his approach was different. From then on,it was a process of discovering him and Shivendra discovering me over a span of two years, he says.
The only apprehension he had initially on the film was its length. I thought people will lose interest so I asked a lot of people and they said it merited the duration. Its no doubt an entertaining film,with clips from old films. The idea of film preservation has also come out eloquently, he says.
Nair also feels that the film is recognition in good time. I want the work that I had started in NFAI,must be continued. If this film encourages people to take care of their own heritage,perhaps half my work is done, he says.
So at 80,is he a satisfied man? One can never be satisfied… Life is always a series of dreams we want to fulfill and a lifetime is too short to collect all the films one wants to. But cinema has given me wonderful experiences. I cannot differentiate between cinema and my personal life, he signs off.