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Niranjan Pal –A Forgotten Legend (2011)

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A Film by Lalit Mohan Joshi
Commentary –Shyam Benegal
Music – Pandit Vishwa Prakash
Duration – 30 Minutes
Producer- Heritage Lottery Fund with SACF

SACF’s documentary by Lalit Mohan Joshi, ‘Niranjan Pal – A Forgotten Legend’, explores the life, career and contribution of an Indian revolutionary turned playwright, screenwriter and filmmaker Niranjan Pal.  India’s veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal has provided the commentary for the film. Research for the film was led by Social Historian and SACF’s Chief Researcher, Dr Kusum Pant Joshi with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  A group of film heritage volunteer trainees also contributed  to the making of this documentary.  Music for the film was composed and directed on a quasi-voluntary basis by Pandit Vishwa Prakash and his troupe of young London-based artists.

The film traces the impact on Niranjan Pal of his father, Bipin Chandra Pal’s political activism and the turbulent political situation created by Lord Curzon’s Partition of Bengal in 1905. It also deals with what led to Niranjan Pal’s sudden move to Britain in 1908. It takes viewers through Pal’s journey from a revolutionary Indian student in London when he moved with  radicals linked with India House in Highgate such as Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Virendranath Chattopadhyay, Asaf Ali and Madanlal Dhingra, to his conversion into a successful English playwright whose plays were successfully  staged in London’s West End theatres. 

The film follows Pal’s entry into filmmaking with his friend Himansu Rai, when they made their famous trilogy of silent feature films on India with Indian and European collaboration: The Light of Asia (1925), Shiraz (1928) and A Throw of Dice (1929). It dwells on the travails of their making and screening  their first film: The Light of Asia that Pal had written in reaction to the ‘Orientalist’ depiction of India by western filmmakers. It also deals with Pal’s abrupt return to India with his English wife and baby son in 1929 when his career was about to take off in the UK. It concludes with an assessment of his contribution to Indian cinema and allied spheres from his heady Bombay Talkies days in the 1930s to the close of his career in the cine world in the 1950s.

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