Indian Cinema in Retrospect contains within its covers contributions from some of the most notable figures in Indian film industry of the early
post-independence period: B.N. Sircar, S.S. Vasan, V. Shantaram, Debaki Bose, Bimal Roy, Khwaja Ahmed Abbas, Devika Rani, Prithviraj
Kapoor, Pankaj Mullick, Anil Biswas, Dilip Kumar, Nargis, Raj Kapoor, Durga Khote, David Abraham - to name only a few personages. Here
they speak about every major aspect of cinema’s art, science, and industry, ranging from acting, direction, and production to financing and
distributing films. In between are topics no less important such as script-writing, music and dance in films, cinematography, sound recording,
and processing of films in the laboratory. Based on a seminar organized by Sangeet Natak Akademi, this book is an invaluable document on
Indian cinema which has been unavailable to readers for a long time. Besides students of film, it will engage the attention of those with a lively
interest in drama, dance, and music. Historians of modern India will find here a wealth of detail related to major themes.
R. M. Ray served as Regional Officer of the Central Board of Film Censors in Calcutta. An economist by training, he obtained his Ph.D
from the School of Economics and Sociology, University of Bombay, in 1940. He was the Honorary Zone Secretary for Bengal in the Film
Seminar of 1955.
One of the first tasks of Sangeet Natak Akademi after it had been established in 1953 was to organize a series of all-India seminars focused on
the arts it was to foster. The Film Seminar held in 1955 was the first of these events, to be followed by the Drama Seminar (1956), the Music
Seminar (1957), and the Dance Seminar (1958). These seminars were designed to bring forth information on the practice of the performing arts
and cinema in all parts of India, and to elicit opinion from the community of artists as to ways and means to encourage the growth of these arts.
At a time when artists from different parts of the country seldom had the chance to meet and exchange views, the seminars organized by the
Akademi helped both the newly-founded organization and the artist themselves to get to know better the lie of the land. For the first time in
independent India, the seminars also made it possible for artists to make their recommendations to government for the furtherance of their
To cineastes today, the Film Seminar may seem to be oddly placed among seminars on music, dance and drama, yet at the foundation
of Sangeet Natak Akademi the cinema was included among the arts that the organization was to nurture of develop. In the popular perception, the
film was an extension of drama, and that view may even be supported by an analysis of traditional Indian theatre and popular cinema. The
Akademi seems to have gone along with that view in 1955. at any rate, cinema remained one of the concerns of the Akademi up to 1961, until
which year it gave awards for direction, acting, screenplay, music and lyrics in films.
When it came to organizing the Film Seminar, Sangeet Natak Akademi did not betray any confusion with categories Film was a
“distinct art form with a separate artistic individuality”, declared P.V. Rajamannar, the first Chairman of the Akademi. The planning and conduct
of the seminar were placed almost entirely inn the hands of reputed artists and other professional of the film industry. As Joint and Executive
Director of the seminar, Devika Rani Roerich played a key role in organizing the event, working in tandem with her co-joint Director Prithviraj
Kapoor, the Director of the seminar B.N. Sircar, the Chairman of its Steering Committee Nityanand Kanungo, and the Akademi’s Chairman P.V.
Rajamannar, to ensure adequate representation for every sector of the film industry and all the principal aspects of filmmaking. Zonal
committees for Bengal, Bombay, Delhi and Madras took care of the regional representation. In other respects too, the seminar was an admirably
well-structured exercise, and brought about an extensive and detailed discussion on the state of contemporary cinema.
Whether or not the Film Seminar eventually benefited Indian cinema may be a matter of conjecture. What is beyond and doubt is the
value of the record of Indian film that the seminar has bequeathed us in the form of this report. Originally titled Film Seminar Report 1955, it
was published by Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1956. Superbly edited by R.M. Ray, one of the distinguished participants. In editing the report, Dr
Ray set a standard that cannot be bettered in the present day, therefore no change has been made in the text made available in this new edition.
The report has been well known to students of Indian cinema in its older version, but is seen only in bibliographies of film literature today.
Therefore we take pleasure in offering the content afresh to students of the cinema, and to all other readers interested in the history of India’s
arts in the modern era.
Foreword to the First Edition
The preamble to the resolution of the Government of India (Ministry of Education) constituting the Sangeet Natak Akadami expressly declared
its object to be to establish an organization to foster and develop Indian dance, drama (including film) and music and to promote through them
the cultural unity of the country. In my very first speech as Chairman of the Akadami I made special reference to the film as a distinct art form
with a separate artistic individuality and said that it will be one of the functions of the Akadami to set up high standards for this new art form
without impairing its commercial value. To carry out the above object I moved a resolution before the General Council on the 25th March 1954
that a Seminar should be organized on “The future of Indian Films.” The resolution was passed unanimously, and Srimati Devika Rani Roerich
and Sri Prithviraj Kapoor were appointed Joint Directors and entrusted with the conduct of the Seminar. In pursuance of this resolution the
Directors, and in particular Srimati Devika Rani Roerich who acted as the Executive Director, proceeded to make arrangements for the conduct
of the Seminar. They were fortunate in securing as the Chairman of the Seminar one of the most respected and distinguished personalities in the
film world, Shri B.N. Sircar. The Executive Director made an exhaustive list of subjects relating to films (which is appended to this Report), and
out of these a few only could be chosen. The further selection of persons to read papers and to open discussions was made by the ‘Executive
Director whose intimate knowledge of the film world was of considerable help in this matter. Though there was initially a certain amount of
prejudice about the Seminar mainly on account of a wrong impression that it was being organized by a Department of Government, when that
impression was corrected and it was made clear that the Sangeet peared and there was hearty co-operation from the several leading persons who
were requested to take part in the Seminar.
After a momentous inauguration by the Prime Minister on the 27th February 1955 the Seminar went on from day to day till the 4th
March 1955. at the same table sat some of the most well known and experienced members of the film profession. Papers were read followed by
lively discussion. There was however one special feature of the Seminar to which I have made reference elsewhere. That is this. Though there
were discussions on the several subjects on which papers were read, no resolution as such was passed. This, I think, was most appropriate. In
matters of art and culture there can be no hard and fast decisions, no dogmatic creed, and no binding injunctions. To give one example: Take a
subject like the place of music in films. Though several views of the subject were placed before the Seminar with force and substance, it was
obvious that no final resolution could be passed that there should or should not be music in films or that the music should be of a particular
Both in the papers and in the discussions the main stress was on the aesthetic and cultural aspects of the film but inevitably subjects
which did not directly deal with these aspects were also dealt with, as for instance, the technical, the social and the economic aspects. I say that
this was inevitable because the film is not merely an art form. Its production is an industrial undertaking. The film is a social institution: it is a
medium of education. The production of a film involves technical processes and requires highly complicated scientific apparatus and equipment.
The commercial factors have an important bearing on the artistic development of the film. So it is you will find among the papers read at the
Seminar such as “The Art of Sound Recording in a Film,” “Studio Management and Finance,” “Film Equipment,” “Motion Picture Photography,”
“The Film Laboratory” and “Distribution, Exhibition and Publicity of Motion Pictures.”
Here is the report of the proceedings of the Seminar. All the papers read have been included in extensor. As already mentioned, each
paper was followed by discussion. Though we would have liked to give a verbatim report of the entire discussion on each papers, it was
impossible to do so chiefly on account of financial limitations. There was also the consideration that the volume would become very unwieldy.
So the discussions had to be edited. Dr. Ray was entrusted with this difficult task and I gave him a little help in a general way. Care has been taken
to see that all the points made by each speaker were brought out. Mere repartee and incidental digressions have been omitted.
I have no doubt that this Report will have more than topical importance. It will be a valuable contribution on the subject of the Film.
Members of the film profession as well as the general public interested in the films will find it informing and interesting. It will, I believe,
provide much food for thought, and I venture to say that the Government also will find it useful. It is the intention of the Akadami to publish later
a review of the proceedings.
A short account of the receptions to the members of the Seminar has also been given as they serve to demonstrate the popularity and
esteem enjoyed by the members of the film profession. I am sure the photographs will help the readers to have a vivid picture of the
Our thanks are due to the Hosali Press, Bangalore, for bringing out the Report with care and attention, and to Mr. P. Spratt for revising
the matter for the Press and preparing the Contents
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