Heritage events in London – Raising the Curtain on Niranjan Pal

Projects / Aug 20, 2011

Sita Devi (Rene Smith) as Queen Gopa in Light of Asia to be screened by SACF SACF will arrange live music with professional musicians to accompany the film.

SACF Honours Forgotten Indian Cinema Legend Niranjan Pal

SACF is to launch its final events by inaugurating an exhibition, releasing a book and screening a documentary on the life and works of Indian scenarist, screenwriter and filmmaker Niranjan Pal. As part of a year-long Indo-British Film Heritage project, SACF has been organising major events between 6 June–14 August, 2011 at the Watermans, Nehru Centre, BFI Southbank and Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan.

These event mark the culmination of a unique project to re-search a forgotten legend of Indian cinema, Niranjan Pal, so far ignored both in India and the west. Niranjan Pal not only remains till date, the most successful Indian in West End Theatre of London but was also the prime mover in the making of classic silent films like Light of Asian, Shiraz and A Throw of Dice that made him a symbol of Indo-British Collaboration in Cinema.

The SACF book Niranjan Pal – Light of Asia edited by Social Historian Kusum Pant Joshi with help from SACF heritage volunteers, has input from Dr Luke McKernan, Lead Curator, Moving Image Sound & Vision at The British Library and Joyojeet Pal the great grandson of Niranjan Pal, Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan.

SACF’s Director and film historian Lalit Mohan Joshi’s documentary Niranjan Pal – A Forgotten Legend will explore the fascinating journey of Niranjan Pal from a revolutionary nationalist to a playwright, filmmaker and celebrity screenwriter who gave Bombay Talkies great films like Achhut Kanya and Janmbhoomi, and Devika Rani, Himansu Rai, Najmul Husain and Ashok Kumar some of their best roles.

The event will be attended by the film academics, scholars, film students from SOAS, the University of Westminster and representatives from the British Film Institute. Descendants of Niranjan Pal – his granddaughter (Melita Malewar) from Chennai, his Cinematographer grandson (Deep Pal) from Mumbai and his greatgrandson (Dr Joyojeet Pal) from USA have also cooperated with and responded warmly to our project and are expected to attend.

SACF receives Heritage Grant to Explore Contribution of Niranjan Pal South Asian Cinema Foundation (SACF) has received a grant of £32,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for its project Lifting the Curtain: Niranjan Pal and Indo-British Collaboration in Cinema which will explore the contribution made by the Indian film legend who was based in UK between 1908 and 1929.

Sue Bowers, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, said: “This project will help to unlock little-known information about how the Indo-British film industry developed in the early years of the 20th century providing a valued source of information for film historians and academics both here and in the sub-continent.”

The project will focus on scenarist, film script and storywriter Niranjan Pal and the film-related activities in which he and others from the Indian subcontinent collaborated with Britons in the first two decades of the 20th century. One of the founders of Bombay Talkies in 1934, Niranjan Pal (1889-1959) was a pioneer who contributed in the making of many significant films through Indo- British collaboration.

“This Heritage Lottery grant is quite significant for the SACF in its tenth anniversary year and will go a long way in fulfilling our commitment to work for building film culture in UK. SACF’s Lifting the Curtain Project is significant as hardly anything is known about Pal’s life and extraordinary achievements in the important field of Indo-British film heritage”, says Lalit Mohan Joshi, Director of SACF.

SACF, based in the west London borough of Hounslow, will produce and print 300 copies of an illustrated book on Niranjan Pal and his life in Britain (1908-29). They will also disseminate it to key organisations such as the British Library (BL) British Film Institute (BFI) and interested university, local and school libraries.

The year-long project will organise various film events, exhibitions and volunteer training workshops to showcase the theme of this novel heritage project in collaboration with community and statutory organisations such as The Watermans, Brentford; the Richmix Centre, Shoreditch; Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, Kensington; Face Films; Redbridge; and the Nehru Centre, the cultural centre of the India High Commission in central London.

An important part of the Project will be to demystify heritage research by introducing a mixed group of 20 volunteers to London’s key libraries and archives including the British Library, British Film Institute and the National Portrait Gallery.

In the season of Niranjan Pal films which is part of this heritage project, SACF will work with volunteers to screen films like The Light of Asia (1925), Shiraz (1928) and A Throw of Dice (1929). To introduce an element of period authenticity, there is to be a special screening of one of the films where SACF will arrange live music with professional musicians to accompany the film.

Local communities will benefit greatly from the project and the participation of volunteers will be vital in all events including the production of the book on Niranjan Pal where their contribution and learning will be specially recorded and highlighted.

For further information and details please call South Asian Cinema Foundation (SACF): t. 020 8230 5765 or email info @southasiancinema .com

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