The Dilemma of Private Collectors.. 

People tend to preserve things that they ‘treasure’ personally or which they believe, ‘will have the potential to return a windfall in the future’. From a social perspective, institutions like ‘Libraries’ and ‘Research Centres’ preserved material in the interests of the society, all though some ‘private ones’ were driven by ‘motives of profit’ as well.

But within this framework lay a sort of power – ‘the power to hold information.’ It enhanced the value of the ‘individual’ or the ‘organisation’ immensely. It meant that ‘individuals’ desiring in accessing this information were at the behest of the former. The ‘former’ could cut off ‘access to information’ at any time.

Since the material was in physical form, either in paper – ‘magazines’, ‘newspaper clippings’, ‘books’ ‘pamphlets’; film – ’35mm’, ’16mm’, ‘8mm’, ‘VHS Tapes’ or ‘microfilm formats’, the ownership lay in entirety with the current possesioner of the material.

Since the ‘individual’ would in all respect, have paid both ‘access and maintenance costs’ ( or obtained donor copies from someone else), they held absolute rights to the material. The holding of such rare material was almost like ‘access to private property’, and the owner could prevent access to any ‘trespasser’ at any point in time.

Another factor that needs to be mentioned in this is that the ‘borrower’ who wished to access such materials in this case, in most cases, did not have the infrastructure for ‘duplication’ or to ‘store and preserve material even if duplicated’ in most cases, especially if it dealt with film material.

With the advent of digital technology however, the power of ‘reproduction of any material in any form’ and its ‘subsequent storage’ of such digitized content has passed to anyone, almost like the air, that we breathe. This has brought a sea change in the attitude of some ‘individuals’ and ‘organisations’.

The fear that their content may be reproduced in digital form and taken out into the world, fears them.If that happened, no longer would they have absolute ownership of the material, in real world terms.

Some of these owners, have rare material, whose copyright have long expired. An attempt at monetization in any form today, will invariably lead to duplication. ( I refrain from using the word ‘piracy’, unless the owner is the ‘copyright holder’ of the ‘material in posession’). Should such content be ‘duplicated’ and ‘disseminated’ during the process of monetization, The owner can do nothing . So, they tighten ‘access’ even further.

It is agreed that many of them have invested heavily in acquiring such ‘rare’ priceless material, but with the ecosystem having changed, there is nothing that can be done to further, their cause. Either, they continue to ‘hoard’ material, without it being of benefit to no one, or they take the better stance in common sense, of allowing ‘desiring individuals’ access to information, for the benefit of enhancing the societies common knowledge.
Some instances where I have encountered such behavioral patterns, i cite below :-

( In the third case, I must humbly admit that the grudge in this case is extremely trivial and was mentioned to just complete a blog post. Compared to the small inconvenience of lack of reproduction, the larger importance is ‘Right of Access’. The immense benefits that the institution has given me through direct access to material for Reference. Thank you very much. )

  1. D.V. Balakrishnan, fan of M.K.ThyagarajaBhagavathar (and father of Suresh Balakrishnan, author of a biography on M.K.T), a person whom I have interviewed extensively tells me of a popular cinema celebrity of having a copy of ‘Rajamukthi’.  He tells me that the celebrity’s father himself has confirmed this information to D.V.Balakrishnan. There is no known film company of ‘Rajamukthi’ which is believed to have survived or any print known to be in circulation. ( Thanks to D.V.balakrishnan, i was able to trace a family in Madurai, which held one of the rare copies of this film, but which eventually decayed and went into garbage. It is a sad story indeed.)
  2. While Speaking with Shivangini Tandon, a researcher who is working on Director Jyotish Sinha, she tells me of a person who she had met in Sri Lanka, who has copies of the Sri Lanka film ‘Kapati Arakshakaya’ made by K.Subhramanyam ( Co directed by Jyotish Sinha), but is hesitant in letting out prints. The same person has uploaded a couples of the movie on YouTube.
  3. This is my own experience that I have of a ‘public Research centre, owned by private backing’. Without doubt, it does have the best facilities and is easily accessible for a layman without any hassles. The support staff are also very helpful in bringing out any content for Reference. Thank God! But when it comes to ‘reproduction’, they take a back seat. Some of the old magazines are breaking ( turned brittle) and filled with Termite holes. I asked them a xerox copy of some pictures from one such magazine, which they refused me. Fair enough.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             But can content not be shared without causing further physical damage, if one resorted to Digital methods? It most definitely can, if one possessed the right attitude.  Another instance of ‘reproduction’ turned down was when I requested for xerox of a couple of pictures of a magazine printed two years ago, was turned down. I was refused denial plainly and I was told that if I desired it ( since I was desperate!!!), i would have to Contact the publisher directly 😦 ( This was in stark contrast to my experience at the NFAI. The library staff there are way ‘too sweet’. Sounds cheesy maybe ,but no other adjectives fit them better!!!).
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Conversations – ‘Film News’ Anandan, D.V.Balakrishnan and Dr.S.Krishnaswamy ..

Over the last couple of months, I have continued to have meaningful conversations with reliable sources of Information. However, Neither is my computer in the best of shape to do some HD Editing nor do I have the necessary Internet Bandwidth to upload even a Trailer, for that matter.. But, Thankfully, My humble First Generation I-Pad is still running good. By December, it would have served me good for almost three years. It has also been my go-to-recording device. As a compromise of space, I set Audio to the best quality, while The Video Recording quality i Keep minimally, So, the End Video Quality does have some pixelations, in it. But i guess, thats the best, that i can manage under these circumstances.

‘FILM NEWS’ ANANDAN – He is one of the most reliable sources of Information in the Tamil cinema Industry. He is officially credited as Tamil Cinema’s First PRO, and has been an immense source of Reference for contemporary work on Tamil Cinema. In the year 2003, the Tamil Nadu Government took over a lot of his material and published his book. Although, I do not have a copy of this book ( I am unable to get one), I have managed to see the book, and the meta data of virtually every film made in Tamil cinema, is almost there.. The work is just way too humongous.. I did have some difficulty tracing him, but thankfully, he only obliged me for speaking for over 2 hours, inspite of his increasing age. He has also lost his eyesight, Poor Man.. He told me a lot of stories, but then, understandably, he gets one or two – wrong. He is unable to recollect, some of his own information, suddenly, which he himself has printed. But he also gets some bang on – The Movie ‘InbaSakaran’ which was burnt in Subhrmanyam’s studio for instance.. It was a very pleasurable experience that i even got to meet this man and take a photograph with him, forget the pleasure of discussing cinema with him.

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2. D.V.Balakrishnan – In the time spent between conversing with Film News Anandan and D.V.Balakrishnan, I spent a lot of time reading books, and seeing some old films. I observed that the most damage in terms of lost or inaccessible movies was that of Director Raja Sandow and Dr.K.Subhramanyam – commonly known as The Father of Tamil cinema. The Other contemporary large studios or film directors of that Era like Pakhshiraja, Gemini, AVM or Directors like Sunder Rao Nadkarni, Ellis R Dungan or Y.V.Rao ( Actress Lakshmi’s father), atleast a few films are available.

So, while trying to get some information about Pavalakodi, I landed up getting links of Suresh BalaKrishnan ( and his father D.V.BalaKrishnan). My point of focus was Pavalakodi and Naveena Sarangadhara, the First and Second Films of K.Subhramanyam. But they were also the first and second movies acted by M.K.ThyagaRaja Bhagavathar and Actress. S.D.Subbulakshmi. The Balakrishnan’s have been researching about M.K.ThayagaRaja Bhagavathar, So I some how managed to link to them..  Incidentally, D.V.Balakrishnan also appears in the documentary ‘An American In Madras’ by Ellis R Dungan by Karan Bali.

Since Suresh is a busy person, most of the conversation that i have had in this one week was entirely with the senior D.V.Balakrishnan and he is indeed a treasure house. He has virtually extended every cell of being a MKT fan and pushed that energy in the form of a very well researched book called Bhagavathar-His Life and Times.

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And Mr.D.V.Balakrishnan was extremely accomodative and cordial in terms of his hospitability. Thank you very much D.V.Balakrishnan Sir.

3. Dr.S.Krishnaswamy – Dr.S.Krishnaswamy is the co-author of ‘INDIAN FILM’, an authoritative work on Indian Cinema. It was first published in 1963 and second edition in 1980. Not only is he extremely well informed about Indian Cinema, he also incidentally happens to be a son of the Great Legend – Director K.Subhramanyam itself.

As has always been the practice, with each conversation, I take in more effort to prepare questions. I do a lot of reading, and I refer contemporarily available reliable Documents and most importantly, I try to double check on Information, if there are conflicting views. Since i had informed Dr.Krishnaswamy that i wanted to focus on K.Subhrmanyam Sir’s family, I had done my level best to do some preparatory work, and it was definitely one of the most enjoyable experiences that i had. I must also thank Dr.Krishnaswamy for giving me some material on K.Subhramanyam, which were published by other authors as well. He also gave me more leads on JayaKanthan’s movies, which i intend to explore further..

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I have planned a couple more interviews, which I do hope that i will get an Appointment, and explore some more places, where Published material is available in Chennai. I also intend to take a trip to the Film Archives in Pune, as well. Let us see, how far things will go!!!