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Treasure of censor board records from NFAI collection available online now

Mumbai: Do you know that in ‘Poona Raided’, a silent film made by Deccan Pictures Corporation in 1924 and directed by BV (Mama) Varerkar, a scene was cut and then passed by the then Bombay Board of Film Censors? The film, an ambitious production as well as the best known directorial effort by one of Marathi theatre’s leading playwrights Mama Varerkar, retells the legendary episode of Mughal Commander Shahistekhan’s attack on Poona and King Shivaji’s daredevil bravery in repelling it!

The scene in which Shahistekhan makes an obeisance and says “The Crescent Moon! Who calls him a Satan? He is the beloved of the Lord”, when Shivaji is transformed into the God Shankar with the crescent moon on his head and is retransformed into his original form as Shivaji, has been cut out together with the above words of Shahistekhan (scene length: 22 ¾ feet; title length: 11 ½ feet). The film was certified on 15th August 1924 with a recommendation to cut this scene in reel 7.  According to film historians, the film was probably made with an awareness of anti-imperialist metaphor in tune with the struggle for India’s independence.

The Volga Boatman, an American silent film produced and directed by legendary filmmaker Cecil B De Mille, was refused certification and was prohibited in India by Bombay Board of Film Censors on the ground that it portrays class hatred, violence, degrading lust and brutality as accompanying the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.

Such details and many other facts regarding the early era of India’s film industry is now available online!  National Film Archive of India has made these rare and historical data from its collection available on NFAI’s official website https://www.nfai.gov.in.

The record consists of the early film data published as Bombay and Bengal Government Gazettes during the period 1920 - 1950. It is a compilation of data of films submitted for Examination/Certification to Censor Boards by companies and individuals.  Over 2,500 pages of these records have been uploaded on NFAI website. These records consist of detailed information like name of the film examined, number of reels, length of the film, name of company or person applying for certification, the name of company or person producing or releasing the film, country of origin, date of examination and number and date of certification issued and endorsement details.

Director NFAI, Shri Prakash Magdum said, “These records are historical documents of the early Indian cinema and Indian film industry. I am sure this reference database would be useful to film researchers across the world who are interested in early Indian cinema.”

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