A rich treasure of Oral History is now on NFAI website

8000 minutes of audio interviews available online


On the occasion of the 151st birth anniversary of the father of Indian cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke, the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) has published a rich treasure of audio recordings in the public domain. About 8000 minutes of interviews of veteran film artists from the Indian film industry are now made available on the NFAI website. Starting from the silent era of Indian cinema, these are the fascinating tales of journeys of actors, technicians, producers, directors and studio owners. Conducted mostly in the 1980s, these interviews were recorded as part of the Oral History Project of NFAI’s Research Programme and features long interviews of pioneering film personalities, narrating the experiences about their life, stories and anecdotes from the world of cinema.

“We are delighted to make available this vast treasure of audio recordings which constitutes a rich reference material for anyone who is interested in studying Indian cinema. One of the main objectives of NFAI is to disseminate knowledge about Indian cinema and I am glad that these voices from the past can now be heard across the world,” said Prakash Magdum, Director NFAI.

There are 53 interviews with the audio recording of about 8000 minutes duration of film artists conducted in five languages- Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, English and Bengali. The artists include Who’s Who of the Indian film industry including J. B. H. Wadia, Akkineni Nageshwar Rao, Vijay Bhatt, P Bhanumathi, SD Subbulakshmi, MK Radha, P Leela, C Honnappa Bhagvathar, Zunzarrao Pawar, Dada Salvi, Chandrakant Gokhale, RM Krishnaswamy, SV Venkatraman, R Ramamurthy, KS Prakash, V Gopalakrishnan, R B Lakshmidevi, Shahu Modak, E Mohammed, V V Bapat, Vivek, Vishnupant Jog, Nanasaheb Sathe, Ganpatrao Bondre, Nilu Phule, Sharad Talwalkar, Shobha Sen, Surykant Mandhare, Chittaranjan Kolhatkar and Soumitra Chatterjee apart from others. The longest interview in the series is of veteran Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee taken by Anasua Roy Chaudhary with a duration of 584 minutes. These long interviews not only throw light on the personal journey of these artists but also give an in-depth account of the changes in the Indian film industry over a long period of time.  

One of the major highlights of the Oral History Project of NFAI is the interviews of several old associates of D.G.Phalke who closely worked with the father of Indian cinema. These artists, coming from diverse backgrounds, entered the film industry at its nascent stage and went on to do bit roles in Phalke’s Hindustan Cinema Film Company. India’s first child artist and Dadasaheb Phalke‘s daughter Mandakini Phalke nee Athavale is extensively interviewed where she speaks about working as child Krishna in Kaliya Mardan (1919). Several of these silent era artists including Ganpatrao Tambat, Sahdevrao Tapkire, Baburao Patil, Narayan Tambat, Haribhau Lonare, and Vasant Shinde worked in Phalke’s studio in various capacities. They share their intimate experiences of working with Phalke in the process throwing light on the humane side of Phalke as well as his craft of film making.

The Oral History Project of NFAI was started back in 1983, where the interviews were recorded on audio cassettes only. Later, with the shift in technology, this project was converted into the Audio-Visual History Project in 2008, where a film/video was recorded interspersed with clippings from related films and other visual material like photos, posters, etc. to illustrate the interview.

These interviews were conducted by Scholars as a part of this project in the 80s and 90s at the artist’s house. Bapu Watve, one of the artists from Prabhat Film Company and film historian took most of these interviews in Marathi. Another renowned film historian and writer Randor Guy conducted many in-depth interviews in Tamil, Telugu and English. There are 26 interviews in Marathi, 10 in Tamil, 12 in English, 3 in Telugu and 2 in the Bengali language.

One can click on https://nfai.gov.in/audio_interview.php to listen to these recordings. While the audio plays, the English translation of the interviews are made available on the side. Wherever possible, the relevant photographs of the artists and posters of the film they worked in are also added.

“As most of the interviews are four decades old, we decided to digitize them. We also took the help of the Sound Dept of FTII to enhance the voice quality of the interviews,” said Prakash Magdum. He added, “Since most of these interviews are in various Indian languages, they were translated into English so that film lovers across the world who are interested in Indian cinema can take benefit of it. We believe that when the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Dadasaheb Phalke are coming to an end today, making this rich database available to film lovers would surely be a befitting tribute to the father of Indian cinema.”