The Film Heritage Foundation announced on Saturday that it had recovered one of ‘Indian cinema’s most important artifacts’ — a Bell & Howell contact printing machine that was used to create prints for the first film talking about the country ”Alam Ara”.
Led by filmmaker and archivist Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, the Mumbai-based organization is a non-profit organization known for its efforts in the preservation, restoration and archiving of Indian film heritage films.
In a post on Twitter, Dungarpur revealed that the Bell & Howell contact printing machine had been recovered from a saree shop where it had sat idle for many years.
”Finally we got it… The only surviving artifact from the very first sound film ‘Alam Ara’ 1931… lying in a saree shop for years… This Bell & Howell contact printing machine from which the prints of ‘Alam Ara’ were made… Nothing survives of the film except this,’ he tweeted.
The Film Heritage Foundation revealed that the machine was originally purchased by Alam Ara director and producer Ardeshir Irani.
“A wonderful Saturday for the Film Heritage Foundation with a truly priceless acquisition for our collection thanks to Nalin Sampat, the grandson of pioneer Dwarkadas Sampat, founder of the legendary Kohinoor Film Company, who deposited one of the most films with the Film Heritage Foundation for preservation – the Bell & Howell contact printing machine, originally purchased by Ardeshir Irani, who processed India’s first talkie “Alam Ara” (1931).
”’Alam Ara” caused a stir when it was released, but the film is lost and Ardeshir Irani is long gone. The printing machine is all that remains,” read the foundation’s post on Facebook.
The foundation also shared photos of the machine recovered from the saree shop and later transported for restoration.
Released on March 14, 1931, ”Alam Ara” ushered in a new wave in Indian cinema by bringing sound to celluloid, ending the era of silent films.
Directed by Irani and produced by Imperial Movietone, the film starred Master Vithal, Zubeida and Prithviraj Kapoor, and also introduced “singing in Indian films”.
It is said that Irani was inspired to make a talkie after seeing the 1929 American film ‘Show Boat’. The film’s story was adapted from the play of the same name by Bombay-based playwright Joseph David. PTI RB RB RB
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