Reeling in the Raj (from THE CARAVAN, July 2014)

Excerpt: “Today, online archival material has given us a chance to see pre-Independence India as it was once seen by the rest of the world. Hundreds of scratchy newsreels, documentaries and amateur films, most of them unremarkable but for the possibility of their containing some vital clue to our social or cultural DNA, can be found on film company websites, in assorted archives, and scattered across YouTube. The British Film Institute’s YouTube channel hosts the Cardiff-Nieter films, as well as some very early documentary footage shot in India: Panorama of Calcutta (1899)—Varanasi, actually—and An Indian Washing the Baby (1906). Harappa Bazaar, a website with a twin focus on the Indus Valley civilisation and the British years in India, collates old Universal and March of Time newsreels about the freedom struggle. Videos presented online by the Colonial Film Database, when they work, include bulletins of the Indian News Parade, the only pre-1947 newsreel series produced in India, and the historical (not to mention hysterical) fiction of The Relief of Lucknow (1912), a retelling of the events of 1857. But the best place to start gazing into the past is the British Pathé archive, which hosts over a thousand India-centric videos, and which recently threw its virtual doors open on YouTube.”

Read the complete article HERE.

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