Pune | The National Film Archive of India has claimed to have acquired rare footage of a 1919 Indian silent film, “Bilwamangal”, from France.
The film was directed by Rustomji Dotiwala and was produced by the Elphinstone Bioscope in Kolkata (then Calcutta) which was later renamed as Madan Theatres Ltd.
“We have acquired the rare footage (594 metres) of this film ‘Bilwamangal’ from Cinematheque Francaise, a French film organisation, which holds the largest archives of film documents and film related objects,” NFAI Director Prakash Magdum said.
“In return of this valuable footage, NFAI will provide a digital copy of Indian silent film ‘Jamai Babu’ (1931), directed by Kalipada Das, from our collection as per mutual exchange policy under FIAF (International Federation of Film Archives) framework,” he said.
“Bilwamangal” is a landmark acquisition for NFAI as there was no trace of work from Madan Theatres, the then biggest production house in the country, he pointed out.
Magdum said that the last silent films NFAI had acquired were from Kolhapur during 1996, titled “Murliwala”, “Sati Savitri” and “Maya Bazar”, directed by Baburao Painter.
“India produced nearly 1,300 silent films between 1913 and 1932, most of which were lost due to its Nitrate base.
Nearly 28 silent films, though incomplete, have been preserved in NFAI’s storage facilities since then,” he informed.
Described as “the story of a man’s ruinous obsession with a courtesan”, the film “Bilwamangal” was adapted from a popular retelling of the legend.
The character of Bilwamangal was played by Dorabji Mewavala while Miss Gohur, the greatly popular Parsi theatre actress, played the role of the courtesan – Chintamani. In the film, Miss Gohur appears in a long dance sequence where her prowess as a performer was clearly on display.
Magdum said that NFAI has acquired 594 metres (28 minutes footage) of this movie.
The film was originally 12,000 feet long.