IFFK 2011 – PK NAIR : Who Devised IFFK ..!
“The IFFK was started way back in 1994 in Calicut with an intention to promote film. It started off initially by showcasing films and then, only after two or three fests, did the competition section start. In the first IFFK, the international classics that were available in India were brought in and screened. The cost of organizing it then was very less compared to the current extravaganza”, said P.K. Nair to metromatinee.com today, who pioneered IFFK, one of the biggest film festivals in India today.
He is the founder-director of the National Film Archive of India. He was closely associated with critics and filmmakers like Marie Seton, Vijaya Mulay and Satish Bahadur. Nair is often referred to as Henri Langlois because of his lifelong work and dedication to preservation of Indian film heritage along with building a great film collection at the Pune Archive.
“When we started the festival, what we wanted was to bring out something new and different. In those days, film lovers in Kerala got exposure to only select films from Europe and America. It is the IFFK that made them familiar with Latin American and Afro-Asian films; and that history is continually being recreated every year”, the veteran scholar added.
The initial idea was to make it a travelling fest. Cochin, Calicut and Trivandrum were the selected centres. But after a couple of fests, practical difficulties in building up the infrastructure every year at different places made them stick to one place, Thiruvananthapuram.
He recollects, “We never saw film as a serious medium. Even Dada Saheb Falke was completely excluded from his family. My parents were against my ambition to study film as it was considered a taboo then”.
Commenting on the change in the attitude of delegates, he remembered that in the early days there were only a few delegates. “When I started IFFK, 90% of delegates were male. There used to be only a limited number of them too. With passing years, the number of delegates has been constantly rising. And more surprisingly, most of these delegates belong to the student community. They have enthusiasm and interest in watching good films. But the question is; is this exposure to quality cinema helping them change their attitude and perception towards the world or not.”
“I sometimes feel that silly questions are raised in open forums. For instance, they ask questions like what the name of Jaya Bachan’s granddaughter is. Are we creating only such audience even as IFFK reaches its 16th year?”
When asked about his favourite filmmaker Nair smiled. His answer was ‘Innumerable’. According to him, at film festivals, he personally prefers to watch old directors. He recently watched a film of Joseph Panahi. Whenever he sees a new film, he tries to catch up with the director of the movie at the next festival.
Beginning his journey as the assistant curator of the Archive in 1965, Mr. Nair himself travelled the length and breadth of the country to acquire film prints which are now an inseparable part of our film history. As the first director of NFAI, he led the centre for excellence that opened new vistas for world cinema.
“We wanted to improve the standard of Indian films. An award for excellence in Cine was first introduced. Then the children’s film society was constituted and provision for funding off-beat films was made practical. It was also decided that award winning films would be kept in a library. This was the beginning of the National Film Archive of India. Film is a part of our culture. It has to be preserved beyond the days of its commercial viability. The films of old days help us understand the mind-set and cultural disposition of the people of those times.”
Mr. Nair took upon himself the task of not only building an archive but creating a Centre for Excellence that opened new vistas to the world of cinema. He collected timeless films of masters such as De Sica, Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman.
By Karthika C.