The recently launched India Public Domain Movie Project is getting some much needed publicity. Today’s Sunday Mid Day has a story on the story behind this Cutting the Chai project.

Sunday Mid Day story on the India Public Domain Movie Project


Ghaziabad-based blogger Soumyadip Choudhury has started a project to upload old Indian films — no longer under copyright — online for free and legal viewing. On view currently: 1944 film, Kismet

– Kareena N Gianani

WITHIN seconds of browsing through Ghaziabad-based web journalist, Soumyadip Choudhury’s blog, cuttingthechai. com, it is clear that the man has a penchant for all things vintage and cinema-related. A charming 1979 advertising poster of Rekha modelling for Lakme, and another grainy photograph of Rajesh Khanna in an ad poster for Fabina Suitings and Shirtings make that amply clear.

Among these is the post with a YouTube link to the 1944 Ashok Kumar-starrer, Kismet. As part of the Indian Public Domain Movie Project, which he kickstarted earlier this month, Choudhury will put up films that are now out of copyright in the public domain, on his blog.

According to Indian copyright laws, particularly the Copyright Act, 1957 (which was amended in 1992), films come into the public domain on the first of January, 60 years after their release. So, Indian films released before January 1, 1952 are now a part of the public domain — an opportunity Choudhury is most excited about.

No Bollywood archives

It was when Choudhury read the book, Bollywood’s Top 20 Superstars of Indian Cinema, that he came across a write-up on Kismet. By sheer chance, he remembered that he had an old DVD of the film, and the Indian Public Domain Movie Project was conceived.

“After I watched Citizen Kane back in college, I desperately began to search for classics. All I found were Hollywood films archived online — there were barely any Indian films.” Ever since then, Choudhury wanted to make old classics accessible to people, which he wants to upload for free and legal viewing on Internet Archive, a US-based non-profit digital library which offers free, universal access to books movies, music and 150 billion archived webpages. You’ll also find a YouTube link to the films on his blog. However, not all films will be as easy to get a hold of. “I have friends who are film aficionados and who, like me, are always on the lookout for classics. They will lend me DVDs from their collection. I also plan to visit Pune’s National Film Archive of India to get some old films,” says the 33 year-old.

Trivia and history

Choudhury plans to upload a film every month, and says he will do so in style. “It isn’t just about getting an old films and uploading it. I am a trivia buff and love to add quirky details about the films, too.” That includes nuggets of information like the fact that Kismet was the one of the biggest box office hits of its time, in which Kumar played an antihero, something Hindi cinema wasn’t used to at the time.

On April 1, Choudhury will upload Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra (1913), one of the finest silent films of Indian cinema. He wants the viewing to coincide with the 100th year anniversary of the film and is researching for more material to go with the viewing. He found the film footage in a French film montage uploaded on US-based university’s website.

Choudhury says he is aware that not many seniors in India are Internet-savvy, but hopes they will log on to watch films from their time. “This project is as much for young movie buffs. They’ll know where great cinema first came from,” says Choudhury.

I hope this will encourage more users to contribute to the India Public Domain Movie Project.