The treasure of RK Studio film negatives that reached the (NFAI) last year have been found to be in “mixed condition of decay”, with some important negatives, such as that of Aag (1948), Biwi O Biwi (1981) and Heena (1991) being in a state of advanced deterioration and needing urgent attention. In January 2018, the Kapoor family had handed over the original and dupe negatives of all R K Studio films, from Aag (1948) to Aa Ab Laut Chalein (1999), to the NFAI.
As per information obtained by The Indian Express, all the 35 negatives that were handed over to NFAI by Kapoor family in January 2018, were checked for their health by film checkers at the Archive and it was found that while 23 negatives were in good shape, 12 negatives were “smelly”, “oily”, “shrunk” or “buckled”. NFAI authorities said that the reels need to be taken for “chemical and physical repair”.
Too much material, not enough space
Accumulation of non-retrievably deteriorated film material, which comes to the NFAI from various sources such as individual donors, Customs department, Indian Railways, state publicity units and closed film laboratories, is proving to be a major trouble for the Archive. It doesn’t have an administrative manual, as reported by The Indian Express earlier, in the absence of which the officials can’t refuse celluloid or publicity material that’s either redundant or irretrievably deteriorated. This has caused shortage of premium archival space in the vaults, due to which NFAI is struggling to accommodate more films and to maintain the vaults in ideal condition.
The 12 negatives includes Shree 420 (Picture Negative), Satyam Shivam Sundaram (Sound Negative), Prem Rog (Dupe Negative), Awara (DN), Satyam Shivam Sundaram (PN), Ram Teri Ganga Maili (SN), Heena (SN), Ek Din Ratri (SN), Biwi O Biwi (SN), Heena (DN), Biwi O Biwi (PN) and Aag (SN).
Original celluloid negatives have special significance in film preservation as they are considered the best source material for a film and the ideal format to preserve for longer periods. The negatives are also closest to the filmmakers idea of the film.
A few months after the RK Studio fire of September 2017, in which some of the memorabilia were gutted, the Kapoor family had decided to move the negatives from their storage facility inside the studio to NFAI in Pune. The negatives were handed over to NFAI Director Prakash Magdum in January 2018 for proper preservation. A few months after the transfer, the Kapoor family decided sell off the studio.
After reaching NFAI in January 2018, the negatives were checked for various parametres of decay and a report was compiled.
“NFAI received the original and dupe negatives of RK films in mixed conditions of their decay. As these are important material, we have initiated the process of scoring duplicate copies. In order to preserve, the original material, under National Film Heritage Mission (NFHM) project, post film condition assessment, the reels would be taken for chemical and physical repair activity as a part of its preventive conservation and long-term preservation,” said Kiran Dhiwar, Film Preservation Officer (FPO).
As per officials, NFAI had been in talks with the Kapoors for over a month before the transfer and Randhir Kapoor had visited NFAI to inspect the vaults and storage facilities. As per veteran director Jabbar Patel, soon after the studio fire, he had met Kapoor at an event and suggested to him that the negatives should be transferred to the Archive for better upkeep. Speaking to The Indian Express, Randhir Kapoor denied the widely-held belief that Raj Kapoor stored all his original negatives in the United Kingdom to avoid deterioration and that the family had brought them back to Mumbai after the latter’s death.
“They were never in UK. The negatives were always with us in RK Studio. Thankfully, they were saved in the fire,” said Kapoor.