Hindi imposition in Thamizh Nadu (Madras Presidency) , in the Silent film era.

Image link – https://rightlog.in/2015/08/anti-hindi-forever-in-search-of-a-national-language/ The title of the post is clearly a misnomer in the context of the article below. None the less there is a contextual analysis to this issue which continues to simmer even today. The Dravidian parties have been long associated with the opposition of Hindi imposition, in defence of Thamizh Nationalism. The other logical argument presented by those which oppose the imposition of Hindi is that there is no need for such a policy as English already serves this purpose. This spirit survives to this day and Thamizh Nadu spear heads this school of thought to all other states which wish to preserve their own identities thereby ensuring a healthy ‘divergent’ democracy, which represents a multitude of people united by language, creed or culture. Today I was going through the ICC 1928 records when I found this gem. It is a-political but the context clearly suggests that there is no need for a ‘lingua franca’ in India, as long as there is English. To all those who still insist on Hindi imposition in India, this is the clearest most non-political, fair and unbiased answer that you can get.

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The Aaron Swartz Legacy and its relevance to Film Research in India !!!

During a few conversations that i had had with Theodore Baskaran, Baskaran stressed on the importance of us to find the date on which KeechakaVatham, the first Thamizh film was released. We know that the year is 1916, but we have no idea of the date of the film’s release. This is a tough task and can be brought out only if we have ‘access’ to primary records, possibly print magazines and news paper clippings, and hope that the ones which have survived, make a reference to this film.

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R.Nataraja Mudaliar who made Keechaka Vadham, the first Silent Thamizh film in 1916.

The trouble however, is that most of the surviving records are not easy to access. Most of them are not digitized yet – either, due to lack of funds, initiative, or of extreme physical fragility. In some cases, digitized records can only be accessed physically at specific locations, or thirdly, access is being ‘denied’ or ‘allowed’ based on monetary walls, which guard the entrance to ‘access’. So, in all the above cases, neither is the power of the ‘Internet’ nor of the ‘Public Domain’, coming into play, thereby clearly denying a ‘level playing field’ for information access.

I have made use of what is available of the Indian Express Archives ( hosted on Google Newspapers/ M.V.Surender curated collection)  && The Singapore News Paper Online Archives, to a large extent in both the Pammal Sambandha Mudaliar book and the Documentary film. Unfortunately, the Indian Express Archives does not go further backward than the 1930’s, and barring a few scattered records, here and there, we have no streamlined continuous material published in India, of the 1910’s and 1920’s, available in the online space.

So, in this context, a simple Google Search will inform us that the ‘Times of India’ Archives beginning from 1838 – 2001 is available online, through some licensing agencies. While a substantial portion of this time line continues to be in-copyright, a large portion of this Archive is already a part of the public domain. Unlike the Indian Express Archives, the TOI Archives can be accessed through an agency called Pro-Quest which seems to be licensing NewsPaper Archives, to a host of universities.

Sensing the potential that some primary information related to Keechaka vatham and the Silent Thamizh Cinemas may be available in this database, i contacted this organization to only return disappointed. The Snapshot of what happened is pretty much self explanatory.

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My request was turned down, on the count that the database was not to be given to individuals, but only to students from Universities. That hardly counts as an excuse for ‘denying access’, but the obvious logic here is that, in most cases, individuals can never afford the 25,000$ to purchase this Database. Even the 4000$ – institutional pricing based on researcher head count is exhorbitant, in any case.

So, sadly, no individual who is interested in searching for new information around the Silent film era, or of any interesting topic in this period will have access to this data. So, any individual who even wishes to look for new information about the Silent film era, will only have to go to existing published sources, and rehash what has been written in the past , thereby hashing and rehashing what is been said already. So, people will be forced to a situation, where they will have to indulge and plaigiarise and rephrase material from a bunch of existing sources, rather than start fresh from primary records. More so, these entry costs will totally repell individuals who work to create and distribute knowledge, without any commercial interests.

The moot question here in this case is – A substantial subset of information in this database, is ‘out-of-copyright’ and clearly belongs to the public. The organization involved in the denial process is not a traditional business organization, but a News Paper, which ironically should represent the pillar of democracy, and uphold the principles of human right, over commercial business interests. Sadly, that does not seem to be the case here. ( I have sent this tweet to the newspaper’s handle as well. I hope that they respond and prove me wrong. 😀)

Like most of us, who flip through news channels and social media and forget names and events within a couple of days, I too have heard the name ‘Aaron Swartz’ once, a few years ago, when he committed suicide. At that point in time, my focal thoughts were entirely on ‘Media Piracy’. But over a period of time, one learns to understand that several of these topics, are all inter related at various levels and form complex interlockings within a larger ecosystem of ‘Access to Information’.

Today, I happened to see ‘The Internet’s own Boy‘, a documentary film based on Aaron Swartz’s life. Never did i know that he like Nostradamus, would foresee the challenges, that individuals like us, in India, who desire ‘free access to knowledge’ for research purposes.

Apart from being a face associated with RSS feeds and the social media discussion platform Reddit, Swartz was largely influential in raising a public awareness movement which was strongly instrumental in ensuring that the S.O.P.A bill was not passed in the U.S.A. While unlike the U.S.A and Europe, where people took to the streets to fight this bill, and that there was not much of an impact in India to be honest, it is obvious that the structure of the Internet would be much different for all of us, had it passed.  Years later, activitists like Nikhil Pahwa, would be in the fore front leading the fight for Net Neutrality, in India, which was won by the public.

Sadly after playing such important roles in preserving the Internet’s democratic structure, Aaron Swartz took his own life. It is unfortunate that he had to commit suicide, but his spirit lives on through individuals / organizations like Internet Archive, Wikipedia, Mozilla and Creative Commons etc. So, some day, let us hope that such newspapers too like these organizations, truly recognize the spirit of the ‘Public Domain’ and the Commons, and make such ‘public domain’ information accessible to us for free, and not just for a few coins.

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In the true spirit of the power of the Internet and the fairness of the Public Domain, each day, more and more public domain material gets digitized and is turning up on the Internet, for free access, to the general public. The British Library has been involved in partnering with Archival Institutions and is digitizing material and is providing them for public access through their ‘Endangered Archives‘ program. This promises a great future for all of us.

Incidentally, Aaron Swartz passed away five years ago, and that i had to see this film today, is possibbly more than a co-incidence. It is possible that it is a reminder through some subconscious karma that reminds us to truly uphold the spirit of the Internet – Open Access to Information and Knowledge. Aaron Swartz – Rest in Peace!!!

Will films made in the present, be accessible in the future?

For a long period of time, one of the issues that has seriously boggled my mind is, ‘Why is it that vintage films which were made in the past and have been preserved, continue to be inaccessible today?’. So, I had consciously incorporated this portion of discussion into the pre-final( Chapter 8) and final (Conclusion/Chapter 9) chapters of THE MISSING FILM REELS OF THAMIZH CINEMA to give a contemporary perspective of the problem.

Yesterday, I was having a discussion with a newly introduced journalist friend over phone, when he asked me if films like ‘Aruvi’ ( yes, he said that name) will be available, say ‘ten’ or ‘twenty’ years from now.

It is then that a stark realization has dawned on me, and ironically, it is the reverse of the issue that i have focussed on. From asking, ‘Why is it that vintage films made in the past and preserved, continue to be inaccessible today?‘, my mind evolves to seek another question – ‘Will films made in the present and are ‘accessible‘ today, be ‘preserved‘ for the morrow?’.


Case 1 : The story travels ten years ago in time. Circa 2006-07. Moser Baer has launched itself head strong and is churning out millions of en-masse published CD’s and DVD’s at rock bottom prices, in an attempt to dominate the Home Video Market, and to knock ‘Piracy’ off the perch. While the attempt is a temporary tactical victory, the strategy fails in the long-run. The effect would be, a rapid undermination of Home Video prices, that would never see an upward trend again.

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One such movie published by Moser Baer during this period was the film ‘En Manaivi’, which was directed by Sunder Rao Nadkarni in the year 1942. Thousands of prints of this movie was published by Moser Baer. Gradually, over a period of time, Moser Baer moved out of the market, and soon, the concept of DVD’s themselves died a slow death.

Some time in the year 2011, a user has uploaded this film on a popular website, in parts. Possibly as a classical Anti-Piracy Manoevre, Portions of these parts have been removed from the website. Rather than take down all the parts of the film, taking down portions of them, would result in users not being able to go-further and see the entire content of the illegally-uploaded film. That’s the idea.

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En-Manaivi – Jan 1942, Indian Express Archives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this case, the remaining uploaded portions of this film continue to exist, however. ( If indeed the portions of the film were removed as per Anti-Piracy objections, that itself is an infringement, since the film ‘En Manaivi’ in the year 2011, was clearly in the Public Domain.)

For the past few years, I have been strongly looking for this film. But by then, Moser Baer had long vanished from the market. It appears that this movie was never published in DVD again. To my best knowledge, it isn’t there online, anywhere too. Sadly, the full film, continues to elude me, to this day.

But the film definitely exists in hundreds of homes. Atleast a few of the people who purchased this film a decade ago, would be having the film. But at some point in time, as ‘physical objects’ lose value, and people moving away from DVD drives, these disks will find its way into the dustbin, and be lost for ever.


Case 2 –

In the previous case, finding a copy of a legal DVD may be tough, but not impossible. The fact that the object (DVD) is ‘physical’ in nature, immensely plays a part, here. Even if people have seen the film, ‘once’ or ‘twice’ but not using it, it means that the film, still exists.

In the last few years, Internet Bandwidth speeds have increased exponentially in India. The 4G data disruption caused by Jio over the last year too has had a positive effect. People who consume data through streaming, no longer have the need to download content, as speeds in most cases, are good enough for the ‘real time’ streaming experience. Again, the concept of ‘legal access’ in this case has evolved from brands like ‘Moser Baer, Modern Cinema, Tic Tac, Seventymm’ (physical DVDs) to options like ‘YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime’ (virtual/streaming) etc. The concept of ‘download’ is slowly turning ‘non existent’ either due to the additional hassle of ‘downloading’ or for a fact that services like ‘Netflix’ && ‘Amazon Prime’ simply don’t offer un-encrypted downloads, at all.

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Will ‘Joker’ be available, 10-20 years from now?

So, anyone can see a film like ‘Theeran Adigaram Ondru’ on Amazon Prime now, but say ‘five’ or ‘ten’ years from now, if we have moved on to a newer form of technology where the concept of binge watches isn’t adding enough dopamine to us, we could well lose these films. Off course, ‘Theeran’ due to its success may have a relatively longer life, but smaller-lesser known films, may just be lost. Even piracy, although ‘illegal’ but which fuels a large amount of user ‘access’ today, will fail in the future, as there will be no ‘seeders’ to keep Torrents Active.


So, while we have failed to save over 80 – 90% of films made in the Analog Era, we might just be repeating the mistakes of the past, yet again, in the Digital Era, as well.

Atleast now, we need a ‘Centralized, Digital Archive’ to store every film, that is being made today, and this library should serve as a reference point for anyone in the future, to access any film of the past, and this Archive must ensure install ‘backward compatible – playback technology’ periodically, at any point into the future.

John Doe Order for ‘Baloon’..

Update – A day after the film’s release, it looks like the inevitable has happened. At times, you can’t but help feel sorry for these film makers. Sad.


Link – http://www.newindianexpress.com/entertainment/tamil/2017/dec/22/madras-high-court-restrains-websites-isps-from-uploading-pirated-copy-of-upcoming-tamil-film-ballo-1734533.html


The producers of upcoming film Baloon, which is scheduled to release today have obtained a John Doe order which effectively gives more power to ISP’s to block supposedly infringing content. Since the defendants ( the alleged infringing websites) do not turn up on such cases, the judgment is an ex parte injunction.

The question however, is how effective is this. This is not the first time that John Doe Orders have been obtained, but the web is too vast to be shrunk into a few thousand URL’s.

The producers of the famous ‘Kolaveri 3’ were possibly the earliest to set a precedent in the Madras High Court. It caused terrible confusion when entire legitimate domains were blocked instead of just taking down the specific URL’s in question. None the less, the Act didn’t stop pirated copies of the movie, appearing soon after.

Even the makers of Kabali obtained an exparte injunctions prior to the film’s release, but the film still found its way out in Day one.

The John Doe order is supposed to be another effective anti-piracy tool in theory, but other than its potential danger to stamp on legitimate other ‘human rights’, it has never shown to be even partially effective in stopping the ‘Piracy’ mammoth.

The only solution that film makers have to is to make films like ‘Aruvi’, that should instigate people to get up from their couches and come to theatres.

Kalavadiya Poludugal finally releases..

A movie has a certain shelf life. If it isn’t completed and released within a certain period, then it is a still born baby. After a long battle today waging several years, Kalavadiya Pozhuthagl, a film made by Thankar Bachchan starring Prabu Deva, Bhumika Chawla and Prakash Raaj released today. (I vaguely even remember hearing that this was one of the movies to be released through the C2H platform.) But what is the point? I doubt honestly if the film, which feels out of time today, can compete with the trendy likes of ‘Aruvi’ et al, with zero traction and promotions. Even the original star cast have moved on. Prabu Deva, the lead star makes no mention of this film in his social media profile and so does Prakash Raaj.

It is an unfortunate situation. May be two or three days, and then it will be out of theatres. Even if it’s held on as a buffer till a larger film arrives, I doubt if it will attract audiences to the theatre.

The film is definitely not going to recover its investment, considering the huge delays involved. The only point in a theatrical release is for the film makers to get some sort of closure. With the likes of Amazon Prime, Hotstar and Netflix, a theatrical release for a long delayed and dated film like this, feels even more absurd.

‘Google Movies’ – Film Rental offer starts ₹20

In an era where ‘eat as much as you want’ streaming services like ‘Netflix’, ‘Hotstar’ and ‘Amazon Prime’ are establishing themselves, and with tonnes of free content on YouTube to gorge on, it is hard to fathom how ‘pay per view’ / download models like ITunes or Google Movies would survive. Off course, these companies do not depend on these services as their primary revenue resources, else they would have shut shop long ago. In light of these circumstances, ‘Google Movies’ has slashed rental prices of several titles to ₹20. It appears to be a short term promotion offer, but i think such services will have to ‘normalize’ costs around such price points, into the future. So, if you haven’t yet committed to a monthly subscription service, want to go legal for a change 😀 or wish to see a title that isn’t available anywhere else, here is your chance. Enjoy.