Preserving the History of Indian Cinema through Digitising Early Urdu Film Magazines

The Hindi film industry, based in Bombay (now Mumbai), was and is the largest of India’s film industries. Shedding new light on South Asian film journalism and readership, this material highlights aspects of local engagement with film that have remained unexamined so far and are under threat of being lost forever.

Indian film journalism has not been widely studied. After the introduction of talkies, the Hindi-Urdu film industry and the nascent film press quickly became concentrated in Bombay, Calcutta and Lahore. The periodicals surveyed in this project were largely published in Calcutta, with the exception of one very rare publication from Lahore, and represent a valuable record of an undivided Hindi-Urdu film culture. Often richly illustrated with photographs, they included reviews, biographies, technical information, and literary texts connected to film.

Urdu film magazines that have survived are fragile, brittle, and prone to disintegrating as they were often printed on low-quality paper or newsprint. Some magazine issues were bound together by their previous owners and have suffered significant damage through careless binding and trimming in some cases. Their lithographed text is also prone to fading and it will soon be difficult to recover if not digitised and preserved.

The Shabistan Film Archive surveyed and inventoried a number of early Urdu film magazines in its collection, such as Film-o-Drama, Akkas, Film Riviyu, Filmistan and Film Istar. The archive’s staff were trained in digitisation and archival handling. The staff were also able to utilise local expertise and develop international collaboration in surveying, cataloguing, and creating inventories of the material in multiple languages.

Project Details

Location: India, Southern Asia, Asia Organiser(s): Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) Project partner(s): Shabistan Film Archive Funder(s): Arcadia Funding received: £15,000 Commencement Date: 09/2019 Project Status: Completed
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