Ever since I first understood the concept of public domain, this project of getting Indian films which out of copyright into a single place has been a recurring desire. But I never actually got around executing the idea, because the plans I drew were grandiose beyond my resources.
While reading the chapter on Ashok Kumar by Bhaichand Patel in Bollywood’s Top 20 Superstars of Indian Cinema the idea again ignited. So am going forward with it, minus the shoo-shaa.
I call this the India Public Domain Movie Project and the goal is to accumulate as many Indian movies from Bollywood and beyond as possible that have passed on to the public domain.
According to the existing Indian copyright laws, particularly the Copyright, Act 1957 (as amended in 1992), films come into the public domain on the first January 1 following 60 years of their release.
26. Term of copyright in cinematograph films – In case of a cinematograph film, copyright shall subsist until sixty years from the beginning of the calendar year next following the year in which the film is published.
Though a new amendment wants to increase that period to seventy years.
Therefore according to existing laws, and my understanding of them (please correct any misinterpretations), Indian films released before January 1, 1952 can be a part of The India Public Domain Movie Project initiated by Cutting the Chai.
I will try to accumulate as many movies in here and if possible would request Cutting the Chai readers to contribute to this endeavour in whichever you wish to.
The movies will be available for free (and legal) viewing and downloading in different formats.
What better film for the The India Public Domain Movie Project than the first blockbuster of Indian cinema – Kismet (1942)
Bhaichand Patel in Bollywood’s Top 20 Superstars of Indian Cinema writes on Kismet:
To call the film a hit is an understatement. Its success was unequalled, before or after in Indian cinema until Sholay came thirty-two years later. It ran for over two years in Bombay and Calcutta. Ashok Kumar played a debonair cigarette smoking anti-hero, a pickpocket who had run away from a wealthy home when he was a child. Reformed by a dancer who had been disabled and was on hard times, he reunites with his parents at the end. The songs, written by Pradeep and set to music by Anil Biswas, were part of the film’s magic.
Interestingly, Hollywood also had a film by the same title in 1944 but unlike the Bombay Talkies film the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie didn’t get the cash register at the box office ringing.
I have uploaded the movie both on YouTube as well as on the Internet Archive. YouTube because of its reach and popularity and the Internet Archive because it is the ideal place to store and share such content of great archival value.
So here it is, ladies and gentleman Kismet (1943):
Cast: Ashok Kumar, Mumtaz Shanti, Shah Nawaz, VH Desai, Moti, PJ Pithawala, Chandraprabha, Kanu Roy, Prahlad, Jagannath Aurora, David, Haroon, Babay Kamala and Mubarak
Scenario and dialogue: Santoshi and Shahid Latif
Photography: RD Pareenja
Sound: SB Vacha
Dialogue director: SJ Hasan
Music: Anil Biswas
Dance: Mumtaz Ali
Editor: Dattaram N Pai
Film architect: LH Choridia
Produced and processed at: The Bombay Talkies Studios, Malad
Download Kismet 1943:
Internet Archive seems to have handled the conversion better than YouTube. Will try to clean up the audio and post better version later. It will be great if someone more competent volunteers.
Meanwhile, if you want to keep a tab on what new is being posted under the India Public Domain Movie Project you may subscribe to this RSS feed for almost realtime updates.