Archiving movies in their heart to the charm of buffs

Keen to find a poster of the first Malayalam movie Vigathakumaran? Or the first film song in the language? Or a copy of a vintage magazine or poster related to the world of celluloid? You have two stalwart archivists in Kerala.

R Gopalakrishnan and Kiran Ravindran have been collecting film-related material for the past four decades out of pure passion for the art. Both residents of the state capital, they have always been an integral part of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), which is now holding its 20th edition in Trivandrum.

“My interest in archiving dates back to my last years in college in 1979 when I worked as the assistant of Sivan,” Gopalakrishnan says about the acclaimed cinematographer who was the camera man at renowned filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Chithrakala studio.”

Till date, he has a collection of three lakh photos, 2,800 Malayalam cinemas and 2000 film notices/posters. “I am the only person who has the still of JC Daniel’s Vigathakumaran,” says the excited Gopalakrishnan, who has a wide collection of photographs of film stars from yesteryear Prem Nazir to new-age star Nivin Pauly.

Cine buffs note that there will not be any single vintage music or music posters that would have missed the sight of the duo. “Walking encyclopaedias on Malayalam cinema, it would be just a matter of few minutes for them to recover the data you are searching for,” says a film freak, who is a regular at IFFK.

Apart from the photos, Gopalakrishnan also carries a collection of Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi songs, since the songs from Jnanambika (1948), the first Malayalam movie, whose songs were released.

If Gopalakrishnan has almost all songs since Jnanambika, the collection of songs with Kiran dates back to 1953, from Aashadeepam.

Kiran’s archive of film and music, known as the The Magic Lantern have almost all 3000 songs released in Malayalam in audio tapes, 78 RPM,  LP-EP records and CDs. Amrith Manthan (1934) directed by iconic V Shantharam, holds the first place among the earliest sound track available in the archives.

“My interest in music started since I was in class 4. Initially, I started collecting the records of English songs,” he trails off.  “Later, since my pre-degree days, I started to collect songs from other Indian language songs like Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil and Bengali.”

Magin Lantern, which is intended at the film fraternity has a collection of 1,000 photos of music and film artists, more than 100 film posters and around 200 “Paatupusthakam” (song books with movie synopsis) which were available till 1982 and nearly 300 records for film and Carnatic music. It also has a collection of important speeches by nationalist leaders including Mahatma Gandhi.

As for Gopalakrishnan, the maximum number of photos he has collected is that of celebrated musician K J Yesudas. The cover photos on majority of the Tharangani cassettes are taken by me,” he reveals.

Also, Gopalakrishnan recollects that he was the one who took the very first photoshoots of actors like Jayaram, Parvathi, Annie, Lissie and KB Ganesh Kumar. “I have taken Mohanlal’s photos since his first movie, Manjil virinja Pookal and Mamooty’s since his second movie Kaalachakram. I have been maintaining personal relations with them since then,” he adds.

So how do they view present cinema vis-a-vis the past? Both Gopalakrishnan and Kiran say that they have an affinity towards the old school.

Kiran, who is a 2012 state special jury award winner for his article, Shesham Velithira published in Deshabhimani, is one of the officials of IFFK and has also directed around 20 documentaries.

Gopalakrishnan, on the other hand, was the official photographer of IFFK during the initial two years and had done a photo exhibition on Prem Nazir in the 19th at IFFK 2014. His son Vishnu Raghav is an up-and-coming artist/film maker with eight movies and two documentaries in his kitty.

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