- Primary sources help us reverify information which has been published in secondary sources.
- Primary sources help us correct any errors which have been published in secondary sources, and which ironically have been reproduced several times to a point where subsequent secondary and tertiary sources keep publishing the error as a fact. For eg several sources attribute the film Prem Sagar to have been directed by K. SUBHRAMANYAM, where as the film was actually directed by Pandit Narottam Vyas. K. Subhramanyam’s flagship production company MUAC distributed the film.
- Primary sources help us find new information, that may not necessarily have interested those authors who have used them in the past. (eg Sailen Bose is today well recognized as a well known cinematographer. But primary records also show that he had a film processing lab which was contractually attached to the Motion Picture Studios).
- Primary sources provide dates which give us a more accurate perception of chronological events in a time line. Secondary sources typically do not mention dates, or provide a very vague timeline. Some of these dates also tend to be incorrect. For eg. Several sources cite the date of the fire accident at the motion picture studios to be 21 Dec 1940, but the actual date of the event was Dec 11, 1938.
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.
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.
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.
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.