New Delhi-National Film Archive of India (NFAI) has discovered 30 reels of unedited footage on Mahatma Gandhi that amounts to almost six hours of duration. These 35mm celluloid footages, unedited and stock shots with title cards in between, are taken by several prominent film studios of the time, such as Paramount, Pathe, Warner, Universal, British Movietone, Wadia Movietone etc.
It is indeed a very wonderful discovery for NFAI, coming at a time when the entire world is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. There seems to be some rare footages in this collection while many visuals are now part of available short films and documentaries. Some of these shots have been used but some visuals seem unique, said Director NFAI, Prakash Magdum.
The major highlight of the discovery is a rare half-an-hour footage that has visuals of a special train carrying Mahatma Gandhis ashes from Madras to Rameshwaram. The stunning visuals show thousands of people thronging to stations like Chettinad, Sivaganga, Chidambaram, Manamadurai junction, Ramnad, Pudukkottai junctions in Tamil Nadu, with folded hands and tears in eyes to have a glimpse of the urn carrying the Mahatma’s ashes. The footage has visuals of a sea of humanity present at what looks like Marina beach in the then Madras city, jostling with each other carrying flags and banners to pay their last respects to the Mahatma. The train stops at major stations en route for people to pay their tribute culminating in the journey at Rameshwaram, with several important politicians from Tamil Nadu taking part in the immersion ceremony.
A visual showing Manilal Gandhi seems to be a rare one from the collection. He was the second son of Mahatma Gandhi and served as the editor of Indian Opinion a Gujarati-English weekly publication, at Phoenix, Durban in South Africa. There is a title card Mahatma Gandhis Son while showing the visuals of Manilal Gandhi at an airport.