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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



National Museum of Indian Cinema: Preserving a rich heritage

National Museum of Indian Cinema: Preserving a rich heritage

Director General, Films Division (FD), Prashant Pathrabe, (above, left) addressed a press briefing on 19th March, at the FD Complex, which was followed by a tour of the National Museum of Indian Cinema (NMIC), exclusively for journalists.

FD was established in 1948, to articulate the energy of a newly independent nation (India gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947). For more than six decades, the organisation has striven to maintain a record of the social, political and cultural imaginations and realities of the country on film. It is the main film-medium organisation of the Government of India and is well equipped with trained film personnel, cameras, recording and editing facilities. This infrastructure is put to use to assist in-house as well as free-lance film makers and producers.

In its archives, the Films Division of India holds more than 8,000 titles including priceless INRs (Indian News Review, a weekly one-reeler that was shown mandatorily before the screening of any film in India, until the 90s), documentaries, short films and animation films.

The National Museum of Indian Cinema (NMIC) was inaugurated on the 19th January, 2019, at the FD Complex, in south Mumbai. It was to open in 2013, to mark 100 years of the feature film industry in India, but got delayed indefinitely. The press briefing was held exactly two months after the Museum was inaugurated.

The Museum is housed in two buildings – the New Museum Building and the 19th century heritage building, Gulshan Mahal – both at the FD complex. The Museum showcases history of India Cinema and has numerous artefacts, digital elements, including kiosks, interactive digital screens, information based screen interfaces, etc.

Film properties and costumes, vintage equipment, posters, copies of important films,  promotional leaflets, sound tracks, trailers, transparencies, old cinema magazines, statistics covering film making and distribution etc., are displayed in a systematic manner, depicting the history of Indian cinema in a chronological manner.  NMIC not only provides a store-house of information to the laymen, but also help film makers, students, enthusiasts and critics to know and evaluate the development of cinema as a medium of artistic expression.

Also present on the occasion was Ms. Shobha Nayar, who has made a huge contribution to the Museum. This consists of a rare collection of around 200 cameras and other artefacts, including an original rare Magic Lantern with glass slide / frame and a replica of the telescope used by Neil Armstrong, the first man to land on the moon. These artefacts are from the collection of her father, Late Shri Kahan Chand Nayar, who was a passionate amateur photographer and an Indian Administrative Service officer of the Maharashtra cadre.

Other items of donation include an 8 MM portable projector, a vintage flash gun, polaroid cameras, Bencini Comet III Camera, Coronet Midget (a tiny box camera), Munchen Antique Miniature Camera, Benecini Koroll 24S and Field Camera, a Baldalux Folding camera made by Blada in the 1950s, Mamiya Camera made during the 1940s and an 8 mm Spool Film Camera made in 1954.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Shobha Nayar said: “My father was a collector of books and cameras; our house was full of both. It took me around 2-3 years to study all the cameras my father had collected, to learn to use them and to catalogue them. I have always wanted that my father’s invaluable collection of film-related equipment finds its place in a museum of the stature of NMIC, which will preserve it and make it available for the masses. I am happy that the process of handing over these items could be completed in just 47 days. I am very happy that my father’s name too is there.”

Addressing the media, Prashant Pathrabe said, “The collection donated by Ms. Nayar is a very big and rare collection. We are very delighted that she has taken the decision to share it with the Museum. Through the media, I make an appeal to the film fraternity, especially the senior members of the industry, to donate historical film artefacts to the museum, so that the whole society would benefit from it.”

While exhorting the general public to visit the museum, Pathrabe said that NMIC has reached out to various schools, colleges and educational institutions, encouraging them to undertake study visits. He informed about plans to start a library containing film-related books and old copies of film magazines.

Pathrabe further said: “We are keen on arranging film screenings, together with National Film Archive of India. NMIC showcases the 100-year history of Indian Cinema; while the focus of the Museum is on classical cinema, the Museum will try to cater to popular cinema. Efforts are being made to augment the collection of artefacts on regional cinema as well.”

The DG also announced that NMIC has acquired the oldest and finest collection of film costumes, properties, posters and literature from iconic Bengali films which were in the possession of M/s. Aurora Film Corporation, one of the oldest film production-distribution companies in Kolkata. The collection includes a number of original costumes and properties which were used in well-known Bengali films such as Jalsaghar, Bhagini Nivedita, Raja Rammohan, Arogya Niketan; booklets of the films Pather Panchali, Sada Nander Mela, Debdut Dakaterhathe, Arogya Niketan, Jalsaghar; posters of the films Moyna Tdanta, Ora Thakey Odharey, Harish Chandra. and Duronto Joy. These artefacts not only reflect the era of discovery of a new form of entertainment in Indian cinema, but also incorporate devotion and experimentation of a group of dedicated persons who were the real architects behind this form of entertainment.

Referring to the donation by Ms. Nayar, Nodal Officer (NMIC), Mr. Anil Kumar (centre) said that it is very difficult to get such a rare collection from a single source. (Seated next to Ms. Shobha Nayar, on her left, is Mr. Dheep Joy Mampilly, Deputy Director, Media and Communication, FD. On her right is Mr. Prashant Pathrabe).

The Museum is open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday (11 AM to 6 PM) and remains closed on Mondays and Public Holidays. Entry fee to the Museum is:

Adults: Rs.20/-

Foreign nationals: Rs.500/-

Children (up to 12 years) and Students (with Identity-Card): Free

Watch Making of National Museum of Indian Cinema on

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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