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HomeEntertainmentMovies100-year-old silent classic Behula reaches the NFAI’s vaults 

100-year-old silent classic Behula reaches the NFAI’s vaults 

The five-reel movie by the famed Madan Theatre was sourced from the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé in Paris

The five-reel movie by the famed Madan Theatre was sourced from the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé in Paris

The vaults of the National Film Archives of India (NFAI) right here have acquired one other uncommon gem in the type of a 100-year-old silent movie Behula (1921), which was made by Kolkata’s famed Madan Theatre in the heyday of the silent movie period.

The five-reel Behula was sourced from the Paris-based Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, the place it had been preserved for all these many years previous. Housed in a particular heritage constructing on Paris’ Avenue des Gobelins, the Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation has been preserving, restoring and selling the historic heritage of France’s legendary Pathé movie studios and has greater than 10,000 movie titles from throughout the world in its assortment.

This is the third Indian silent movie to be acquired by the NFAI from the Paris-based archives lately, however the first to be acquired in its entirety (the different two acquisitions have been solely footages from two silent classics). All three have been made by the historic Madan Theatre.

“At a time when discovering a complete silent film is a near impossibility, we were delighted to find Behula in the remarkable Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation. The other two silent film classics that we had acquired were unfortunately just footages and not the whole films,” stated former NFAI Director Prakash Magdum, beneath whose watch the archives acquired all three silent movie classics, together with Behula.

Madan Theatre, arguably India’s most influential and largest movie producing studio in the first three many years of the twentieth century, was based by pioneering movie producer Jamshedji Framji Madan, and usually produced footage primarily based on Indian mythology, and historic romances like Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s Durgesh Nandini.

“We had been in touch with the Foundation Jerome Pathe since 2018. Then a major retrospective of Indian silent films was held in March 2019. At the time, I got a chance to see the original camera negative of Behula. Since then, we have been making efforts to get the film to the NFAI,” Mr. Magdum stated, including that the digitisation of the movie was accomplished in France and that the image was acquired by the NFAI throughout the pandemic.

Mr. Magdum stated that the intertitles of Behula have been lacking as unique digicam negatives lacked intertitles.

“Work on these intertitles is currently on at the NFAI with due consultation with film historians, particularly noted silent film scholar and cineaste Virchand Dharamsey,” he stated.

As was typical fare with early Madan Theatre choices, Behula was a mythological story that includes the exceptional Anglo-Indian actress Patience Cooper, then driving excessive on her success with the lavish Nala Damayanti (1920), additionally by Madan Theatre.  

The movies produced by Madan Theatres, the place numerous European, notably Italian and French artistes labored, have been famous for his or her exceptional and extremely revolutionary particular results in addition to elaborate units, and Behula is not any exception.

Speaking about the revolutionary particular results in the movie, Mr. Magdum notes how, in a specific scene, the emulsion was intentionally scraped off to provide the impact of lightning.

“There are other effects in the film that are worth experiencing. Despite studio work, the film also has several outdoor locations. The sets are certainly elaborate by the standard of the silent film era,” he says.

In March 2021, the NFAI acquired a 14-minute footage of the silent Bengali classic Madhabi Kankan (1930), primarily based on a nineteenth century historic novel by eminent historian-writer R.C. Dutt, from the Cinematheque Francaise. In 2017, the archive acquired footage of one other landmark Bengali silent movie — Bilwamangal (1919) — certainly one of Madan Theatre’s first choices, additionally from the identical archive.

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