5 Documentaries about India's Rich Historic Roots

5 Documentaries by Film Division that take you back to India’s Rich Historic Roots

March 12, 2021
  • Shweta Raman; Dhritiman Kakati
  • Film Division Of India, Film Preservation, Observational Documentaries, History, Celluloid Film, Indian Heritage, Art, Culture

Preserving culture, paintings, architecture, and wildlife through film.

A documentary film is a non-fictional motion-picture intended to “document reality”, primarily for the purposes of instruction, education, or maintaining a historical record. Back in 1948, the Films Division of India formed by the country’s first independent prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru made films with this very purpose. Nehru created the Films Division to lead the production and distribution of information films, enlisting documentary cinema for the greater vision of nation-building, integration, and development.

Today, these documentaries play a crucial role in educating the youth. These films are means of archival information preserved and restored, leading us all to be more aware of the history of different Indian cultures, geography, architecture, art, psychology, cinema, and more.

The importance of these documentaries lies in the fact that they preserve time and heritage. These filmmakers have created observational un-manipulated films as material for future generations to observe and study, both for cinematic and historical purposes.

With these documentaries, the filmmakers captured a specific time frame of Indian history so efficiently that they are now a window into the past of our young country. We are glad that these vintage film reels have been restored so carefully and are available to watch till date!

We bring you 5 historic Film Division documentaries that will take you back in time:

1. Man In Search of Man:

In 1974 some anthropologists, a National Geographic film crew and a few policemen visited a few islands in the Andaman and Nicobar to shoot a documentary about the Andamanese, “Man in Search of Man.” The crew of this film sets out on a journey in search of the vanishing tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands located in the Gulf of Bengal. One of these islands included North Sentinela, where they encountered an uncontacted tribe called the Sentinelese. These tribes vigorously reject all contact with outsiders.

On the whole, this documentary is an expedition that reports about the life of five different tribes.

Director : Prem Vaidya

2. I am 20:

This film was made in 1967, 20 years after India’s Independence. The premise of the documentary is that the director seeks out young men and women born on Independence Day, August 15, 1947 during the British Empire, and asks them questions about India broken and brought to its knees by the empire. How is it treating them, what they think about the country, their hopes, and dreams, ambitions, and inspirations.

The documentary is filled with sharp questions and honest answers. The answers are a mix of idealism, irony, sarcasm, dismay, hope and optimism.

Director : S.N.S. Sastry

3. Malwa:

Malwa was made by the same director as I am 20, S.N.S. Sastry, in the year 1963. The film talks about the rich historical and cultural heritage of the Malwa plateau in Central India. The ruins that survive bring back memories of kings and poets, craftsmen, and architects.

Malwa gives us an irrefutable connection to the past, to certain social values, beliefs, customs and traditions that allows us to identify ourselves with India’s cultural heritage and deepen our sense of unity and belonging.

Director : S.N.S. Sastry

4. Rabindranath Tagore:

This documentary was made by the legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray in the year 1961. It details the life and work of the celebrated Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore. The documentary was made on the occasion of Tagore’s birth centenary in May 1961. Ray was conscious that he was making an official portrait of India’s celebrated poet and hence the film does not include any controversial aspects of Tagore’s life.

The film comprises dramatized episodes from the poet’s life and archived images and documents.

Director: Satyajit Ray

5. Through The Eyes Of A Painter:

M.F Husain painted freely and on a monumental scale, perhaps influenced by his early career as a painter of cinema billboards. He also made many films. ‘Through the Eyes of a Painter’ (1967) compiles glimpses of the architecture, people and places of Husain’s India.
He filmed various places and scenery in Rajasthan, where it was shot. Whatever came close to his heart was filmed. There is not a single dialogue in this fifteen minute film.

The film won the Golden Bear at the 1967 Berlin Film Festival.

Director: M.F Husain

In the last 65 years, the Film Division of India has, to its credit, over 6440 films and approximately 2478 newsreels as well as news magazines. It has now become one of the largest Governmental production houses in the world. All of the available FD titles, give us a unique perspective and peak into the ‘what-it-was’ and ‘what-it-will-be’ of India’s culture, art, history, politics, and many more.

For more such archival documentaries and animations, you can visit the official website of Film Division or their YouTube channel-
https://filmsdivision.org https://www.youtube.com/user/FilmsDivision

What do you feel about the importance of documentaries in recollecting our past? Suggest us some documentaries in the comment section below.

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