Art Archives in India

gurudutt-_1.jpg Where do I search for thee???

The Faustian spirit often takes you into stranger alleys of life and in my case takes the better of my time. I was on a surfing spree and not just any mundane google search, but wanted to look into the lives of some famous personalities who have intrigued me since the time that I was a child. As a result, I had a peek-a-boo into Marilyn Monroe’s mysterious death, Greta Garbo’s irresistible charms and some more Hollywood masala stories including some reel-life political flicks like JFK death and his assassin Lee Oswald’s widow’s interview with Oprah Winfrey.

But then the Mephistopheles in me urged me to look into the life and deaths of some ultimate romantic, tragic stars of my own land…Guru Dutt, Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Dilip Sahab, etc. But the internet not only let me down but also led me to question the reality of biographical research in India. It is saddening and extremely disturbing to find almost negligible archival material on these bright matinée idols in the Internet. Forget about the lesser known stars or the stars of the silent era, even people like Madhubala or Meena Kumari are known in the Internet mostly through the wikipedia or through some posters in shady websites publishing luscious gossip. I was keen to know what happened to the properties, that these stars once owned? Are they still intact? For instance, what happened to “Arabian villa”, the residence of Madhubala which saw her through her last days? Or where is the Gurudutt flat at Peddar Road?

These are memorial and archival structures which needed to be preserved as museums dedicated to cinema, art and culture or even as landmarks of Indian cinema’s history. But when one searches on google or any other search engine, all that you find is “Gurudatt Housing Society” or complete eradication of any details regarding Madhubala’s residence. I tried to search “Filmafare Archives” to read columns on these stars, but the result was “vote for your favorite star for filmfare 2008”. Are we really such great cultural amnesiacs? On the other hand, if one Google searches any of the Hollywood names you’ll find not only the details of their addresses but also pictures of grave stones dedicated to these icons.

Is it not time to take Indian cinema more seriously? What do we do to preserve archival material and archival structures that are also a part of heritage building process of any nation which aims at not only proving itself as a “commercial blockbuster” but also as an “art and heritage connoisseur”.Biographical research are also reality reflectors of progressive culture and we need a little more reality check in terms of our hyper-gyan. India is one of the largest producer of software and computer brains. But are they limited to being trained as “software engineers” sitting in 6/6 cubicles copying codes? Where is that collaboration which is required to save and inculcate heritage protection and information? I do not deny that there aren’t good biographical writings on the lives of celebrities in India. But why limit them to books that are beyond the reach of common citizens? Most of them priced beyond 40-50$. Moreover, what is happening to the heritage sites? I am sure the Bandra complexes of dead stars must be pumping lump-some amount for constructors that buy these properties.

In the end like any cribbing mortal who cribs from the par boiled dal-chawal in the hostel to the state of affairs in the “Center”, I nostalgically crib…where do I search for thee….

AUTHOR: Arnapurna Rath, Research Scholar.

300px-madhubala.jpg

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