indian cinema heritage foundation

History of Cinema, History of the Nation

06 May, 2023 | Archival Reproductions by Cinemaazi
Indian delegates (from left) Loksen Lalwani, Basu Bhattacharya, Amol Palekar with friends, on cruise on Moskva river.

The exhibition "60 Years of Soviet Cinema" was one of the highlights of the Moscow festival. In direct contrast to "50 Years of Indian Cinema" held in Bombay in 1963, this exhibition was not only well-planned but it provided a wealth of information about the development of Soviet Cinema right from the day Lenin signed the decree nationalizing the cinema industry on August 27, 1919. Aptly enough the motto of the exhibition was "The History of Cinema is the History of the Nation". Apart from extensive historic record displayed through photographs, magazines and books, one of the main attractions of the festival was the section devoted to film technology. It showed not only old antiquated cameras and other equipment as well as the latest equipment now in use but also innovates that give us a glimpse into the future. Here one could also watch films of different genre and technique being made, including cartoons. The exhibition is so good one hopes that Sovexportfilm will bring it to India. It would give a layman complete idea of the entire process of film-making in a very interesting manner.

The three day seminar was to have 46 speakers but not even half the numbers could speak. The platform was primarily occupied by directors like Bardem Wajda and Francesco Rossi. Out of them Bardem who won the gold prize for his political film "Seven Days in January" averred that though leftists like him were accused of making political films, all films were political though their approach was different. Wajda compared the relationship between the creative artist and the Government with that of the wife and husband who ma quarrel but cannot do without each other. With so many diverse attractions the attendance at the seminar was thin. Though four persons from India were expected to participate only Basu Bhattacharya succeeded in making his speech on the third day.

The Indian delegation, though it was big as usual, had its own problems. The first was created by Air India which cancelled a couple of its flights to Moscow during that period. As a result, the very first batch reached late. A nasty fall prevented Raj Kapoor from attending the opening ceremony. Satyajit Ray missed his flight and was not present at the closing ceremony to receive the award. The screening of competition films began on 15. And as it was the Indian Independence Day the Indian entry was shown. Mrinal Sen was not present then or even on the next day to answer queries from Press. Arun Mukerji had to answer all questions about "Parashuram".

Mrinal Sen receives Silver Prize for his film "Parashuram" from Soviet director and Chairman of the Jury Stanislav Rostovsky.
The two Basus monopolized the talk. The much publicized Indian Panorama was never held.
Mr. Raina the leader of Indian delegation, had brought two booklets for distribution. One was about Indian films of 1978-79 and the other about Indian cinema in Soviet Union. The second booklet, written by Hameeduddin Mehmood, was full of factual errors. The very first sentence said Pudovkin planted a sapling at Natraj Cinema, Bombay. Obviously, the writer meant Natraj Studio. Then he gives credit to Pudovkin for taking "Dharti Ke Lal" to the Soviet Union. The film was in fact sold to Russia before Pudovkin came to India. I should know because I concluded the deal as the associate producer of the film. Then according to Hameeduddin, Vijay Bhatt (and not K A Abbas who was in fact the leader) led the Indian film delegation in 1954. There were other such mis-statements in the article. That apart, Raina, apparently forgot to call upon the two South Indian delegates whom he had invited to sit at the table to address the press conference. No wonder Sethumadhavan and Srinivassan were displeased. The two Basus monopolized the talk. The much publicized Indian Panorama was never held. Then, when Mrinal arrived he had to face stringent criticism from IMPPAs office bearer from Bombay and a journalist from Delhi for sending "Parashuram" to the festival. They charged that Sen was trying to give a wrong image of India by stressing on the poverty of the footpath dwellers. Mrinal's critics left Moscow earlier. They were not present to watch him receive the silver prize.

Some of us like Amol Palekar and Romu Sippy had a chance to meet director Emil Lotanou. His film "Gypsy Camp Vanishes into the Blue" had a successful run in Bombay. We were also keen to meet his young and beautiful wife Galina Balyaeva who as Ogla has given a memorable performance in "Hunting Accident" also directed by Lottanou. During the talk the director said the origin of gypsies was India. They went to Europe from here. Even now their language bears a resemblance to Indian languages. It would be worth one's while to make a film on gypsies, showing how and why they migrated to Europe from India - a worthy idea for a co-production.

This article was published in Filmfare magazine’s December 16-31, 1979 edition written by V P Sathe.

The images and captions appeared in this feature are from the original article.

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