Remembering Nair Sahab

March 4, 2016 at 9:15 AMMar (Cinema, Friends, Media, Music, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

P.K. Nair is no more.

Language is inadequate to speak of his contribution and also of the vacuum his death has left behind.
When I got into the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune in the year 2012 one of the things I was eagerly looking forward to, in Pune, was seeing P.K. Nair the man whose effort gave us the National Film Archives of India and through it all the films that we have watched and learned from. But never could I gather the courage to call him take an appointment and go meet him.


But slightly over a month after I joined the course my teacher Rahamat Tarikere, who was then writing a book on Amirbai Karnataki came to Pune researching on his subject. One day while walking with Sir to the NFAI library I said, “May be you should also speak to P.K. Nair,” to which Sir said, “Yes, I do intend to.” Without waiting for further instruction I had pulled out my phone from my pocket saying, “Let me take an appointment,” and rang Nair sahab who on knowing someone was writing on Amirbai and wanted to meet him said, “Come now,” and said that he was in his office (PK Nair committee) at the Institute. Rahmat Sir and I took an above turn and walked to the Institute.

As Rahamat Sir and I entered his room he shook hands with us and asked whereabouts. When Rahamat Sir explained to him about the book he is writing on Amirbai Karnataki and immediately Nair sahab started recollecting the songs of Amirbai and also started humming some of them. He also spoke about the voice culture and also the shift that the voice culture took in the 50s. As I sat there listening to him I realized that Nair sahab, who effortlessly recollected songs and would quote the year of its release and other details about the song, was not someone who just built the film archives in India but is/was also an archive in himself.

Later in that year a film made on him Celluloid Man was released which we had the fortune of watching with Nair sahab himself during the occasion of 100 years of Indian cinema. While watching the film Celluloid Man I realized that my Masters’ thesis wouldnt have been possible if not for Nair sahab. In the film Girish Kasaravalli says how his first film Ghatashraddha was lying in some studio in the then Bombay which Nair sahab got hold of and preserved if not for which a copy of the film wouldnt have been available now. My post-graduation dissertation was on the film Ghatashraddha.

That day when the screening got over and I was about to walk out of the NFAI I got a call from B.M. Basheer, a senior friend, who is also the editor of the Kannada daily Vaartha Bhaarathi. He asked me to do a special article for their annual issue and I immediately asked him if I could interview Nair sahab to which he said, “Ok.” As he said “Ok” I turned back and went into NFAI again where Nair sahab was still sitting. I went to him and asked him if I could interview him for the annual issue of a Kannada daily and all he said was, “Sunday morning.”

After quite a long interview that day my friends Rahul and Pooraj along with me sat for a while with Nair sahab without wanting to leave immediately after the interview. He asked us how the course was running and if the recommendations made by him were taken seriously. Even in the informal conversation that followed the interview he kept repeating something which he kept uttering during the interview: “There is a lot more to be done,” which seemed to be his preoccupation and to that he would add, “Someone should take it forward.”

Yes, there is a lot more to be done and someone should take it forward. Nair sahab did what he could do which was more than the share of a single person in the history of a nation.

1 Comment

  1. deepabhasthi said,

    Hello, my name is Deepa Bhasthi, I am a writer and independent journalist. I need to speak with you urgently on P K Nair for a story for Indian Express. Please mail me your number. I am at deepabhasthi(at)gmail(dot)com
    Thank you!

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