Archivist who loves Hindi films and songs | Sunday Observer

Archivist who loves Hindi films and songs

Brief history of Filmfare….

Launched in 1952 by The Times Group that published the newspaper The Times of India, Filmfare came only a year after Screen was launched by The Indian Express. Taking off from the image of The Times of India, Filmfare combined serious film journalism with glamour. It featured exposés of exploitation of junior artists, articles various aspects of filmmaking, and notable cinemas of the world, like Italian, Japanese and the German cinema. It also benefitted hugely from the extensive distribution network of the newspaper, and quickly gained popularity nationwide as an upmarket households.


G.G.U. Saman Kumara

In 1953, it further emboldened its place in the Indian film industry, when it established two motion picture awards. First the Filmfare Awards for movies in Hindi, and the Filmfare Awards South for movies in the Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu languages both started in the same year. The awards were based on Academy Awards, with a difference that the winners were decided by readers votes, thus known as “popular awards”. The annual Filmfare Awards ceremony, held in Mumbai, is one of the oldest and most prominent film events in India.

Circulation dropped in the early 1990s, prompting the publishers to attach free consumer products (like soaps or shampoo sachets) to the magazine. Additionally, special monthly editions with a few pages dedicated to Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu cinema were begun.

Filmfare Awards East for films from West Bengal, Odisha and Assam was started in 2014. In 2005 Filmfare and some other publications, most notably Femina, and Indian editions of Hello, Good Food, Top Gear, and Good Homes were split off into a subsidiary. The Hindi language edition of Filmfare was launched in 2011.

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Director of Physical Education, Kelaniya University, G.G.U. Saman Kumara can be considered to be one of the best individual archivists in the country. A resident of Awissawella, he has been maintaining his archive as a hobby from the early 1970s, without any help from the Government or any other non-governmental or civil organisation. The Sunday Observer met Saman Kumara, also known as a recorder in Athletic community, to talk about his experience and his views on his hobby: archiving.

He reminisced his happiest moment when the publishers of the Film Fair magazine, the most famous cinematic magazine published in India since 1952, sought his assistance to chronicle the magazine’s history in 2012, following their erroneously ordered history on the 60 th anniversary celebration magazine as he had the complete collection of the magazines over the years.

“After I wrote to them about their magazine’s history, they spotted their mistakes and asked me to help them to correct their version of the history. I saw mistakes in a cover page on their 60 th anniversary celebration magazine. After I pointed out mistakes, citing evidence from my collection, they sought my help to correct their mistakes. They appreciated my work in writing too. That was a remarkable moment in my life. They could not believe that they had a dedicated readership outside India,” Kumara said.

“Archiving is my hobby still managed with difficulties. I don’t have enough building facilities to maintain this. I am keeping all materials in my home. The insects are the other main problem. They can destroy every paper collection. However, still, I manage it. Financial constraints limit me to expand my hobby. I spend my salary for documents,” he said.

“From my childhood, I liked to collect various things. I am the only one in the family to collect newspaper cuttings,” Kumara said.

He said that as Sri Lankan singers followed Hindi music with Sinhala lyrics during his childhood, his curiosity to know original songs led him to become a Hindi fan.

He said that print media dominated communication during those halcyon days of his childhood with no sign of the hustle and bustle of open economy.

“Television was not available and carnival was the only major entertainment event. There was a carnival in our area, and my father accompanied our family members to see it. It was a marvelous experience.

There was a Hindi music festival too in the carnival. We heard Hindi songs through the radio and came to know about Hindi films also. Our singers followed Hindi music for lyrics in our native language. We wanted to find out what were the original songs. That was like a contest in our lives. So we attracted to Hindi music too,” Kumara said.

Abiman became the most popular film in 1972. I listened to Hindi songs via the radio and tried to find more about them via newspapers and magazines. Occasionally, I had a chance to watch Hindi films screened in film halls. I bought a few Film Fare magazines too. Day by day, my collection grew. I also collected Hindi songs as well. I visited booksellers and bought Film Fare magazines and songs. Collecting magazines and Hindi songs became my passion,” Kumara said.

He said he will never sell his collection and added that he is willing to donate his collection to Kelaniya University. It is useful for students who like to study Hindi songs and film culture, he said.

“In eBay (online marketing system), buyers are there for the Film Fare magazine too. But this is not a business. Collectors love to buy these collections. They will pay plenty of money for it. I will share extra copies with other collectors who love Hindi films, but never sell them,” Kumara said.

“I can remember my sacrifices to collect magazines and songs. When I went to India for some courses, I combed old bookshops and entertainment shops to find originals of old films and songs. When they knew I was a Sri Lankan, they were surprised. They admired my taste for their art and culture,” he said. Gramophone, video, VCD, DVD players are also among his collections.

Kumara said new cover pages of the Film Fair magazine remind people of American playboy type magazines.

“The era has changed. However, as an archivist, I never like that change,” Kumara said.

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