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Colonel Naval D. Gandhi

Scene from Balidaan/ Sacrifice

1897–?

Indian film director who made both feature and documentary films. Born in Karachi, Sindh (now in Pakistan), Naval hailed from a Parsi family. After graduating from Ahmedabad in 1919, he embarked on a European study tour. While working for Orient Pictures in India, he won fame when he directed a critically acclaimed film titled Balidan (or Sacrifice, 1927). Based on Rabindranath Tagore’s play “Bisarjan”, it was made to show audiences in the west that Indian cinema could measure up to international standards. Recognising its merit, the Indian Cinematograph Committee, described Gandhi’s Balidan as “An excellent and truly Indian film”. Another film directed by Naval Gandhi was Shikari (1932).

During World War II, Naval Gandhi was a Colonel in the Indian Army. This enabled him to work in Bombay’s Army Film Centre that had grown from a small film unit set up by the department of military training in 1941, into a far larger organisation with a wider film-making remit. He later left the army and returned to film-making. Because of his Karachi connections, he produced a documentary that had the unedited version of the speech delivered by Mohammad Ali Jinnah on 14 August 1947, Pakistan’s independence day. Titled The Birth of Pakistan (1947), it was written and directed by Yavar Abbas who was then a young Indian army officer and combat cameraman trained in filmmaking in the British Indian Army's Public Relations Film Unit established around 1941 in Tollygunge, Calcutta.


The above findings are part of the research which ensued in the project - A Hidden Heritage: Indo-British Film Collaboration (1930-1951)


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