For decades, Amitabh Bachchan preserved some 60 of his films in an air-conditioned room in his bungalow in the western city of Mumbai.
Five years ago, the Bollywood superstar handed over the prints to a temperature-controlled film archive run by a city-based non-profit, which had begun restoring and preserving Indian films. Led by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, an award-winning filmmaker, archivist and restorer, the film Heritage foundation has been at the forefront of these efforts. It has “built an international reputation for excellence”, according to director Christopher Nolan, and Bachchan is its brand ambassador.
For years he has been tirelessly advocating and actively helping in trying to preserve India’s fast-decaying film heritage.
And on Friday, Bachchan was feted for this little-known facet of his work. The 78-year-old actor was conferred this year’s International Federation of film Archives award. Nolan and fellow filmmaker Martin Scorsese gave away the award, whose stellar past recipients include the two acclaimed directors themselves and such auteurs as Ingmar Bergman, Agnes Varda and Jean-Luc-Godard.
Bachchan, Dungarpur says, has “always been deeply invested” in the idea of preserving and archiving cinema. During a conversation, the star once agonised over the fact that he couldn’t watch some of the earlier films of the thespian Dilip Kumar because “they were simply lost”.