Documentary

Narrating actuality

Print edition : October 18, 2013

The Lumiere brothers. Photo: The Hindu Archives

A still from one of the Lumiere brothers' films, which was shown in Bombay on July 7, 1896. Photo: The Hindu Archives

Save Dada Bhatvadekar. The first Indian actuality film is credited to him.

A number of films, popularly known as durbar films, were shot by assorted companies and independent cameramen on the events of the coronation of King George V. In the case of the 1911 durbar, mobile processing laboratories were set up to facilitate immediate making of the prints to put them in circulation for commercial exhibitions. Photo: The Hindu Archives

Hiralal Sen shot the nationalists' protest demonstration at the Town Hall in Calcutta (sketch above) against the partition of Bengal in 1905. Unfortunately, all of Sen's works were destroyed in a fire in 1917. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Individuals such as A.K. Chettiar and P.V. Pathy made films on various events of the Independence movement. Photo: by special arrangement

Mahatma Gandhi and his son Devadas, in the documentary "Mahatma Gandhi: Twentieth Century Prophet" made by Chettiar in Hollywood in English in 1953 Photo: by special arrangement

The Ministry of Information, London, in collaboration with Wadia Movietone, produced in 1940 propaganda films such as "Planes of Hindustan".

Indian News Parade, the predecessor of independent India's Films Division, was created later to make films for sociological and anthropological purposes.

J.B.H. Wadia of Wadia Movietone headed the Films Advisory Board set up by the colonial government. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

As independent India had no infrastructure to document events relating to Independence, the state acquired Jawaharlal Nehru's "Tryst with Destiny" speech (above) from private producers. Nehru realised that the newly formed country needed an agency to reach out to the vast population and the Films Division was born. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Nehru inspecting the Bhakra dam. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Cover poster of Anand Patwardhan's 1991 documentary "Ram ke Naam" on the rise of the Sangh Pariwar and the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

Anand Patwardhan. Photo: K_MURALI_KUMAR

Documenting Bombay: In "Arrival" (1980) by Mani Kaul.

In "Bidesiya in Bambai" (2013), by Surabhi Sharma.

Visitors at the 8th Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short and Animation Films in 2004. The festival, barring a protest against state control during the BJP regime, has gained the trust of independent film-makers. Photo: SHASHI ASHIWAL

The language of documentary in India has moved from capturing “reality” to presenting “authenticity” and from being an instrument of propaganda at the hands of the British colonial state and subsequently the various governments of independent India to an empowering tool for individuals.
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