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Amita Malik and Lost Archives

Amita Malik “the first lady of Indian media" was born in Guwahati to Bengali family in 1921, she joined the All India Radio as a casual staff in Lucknow in 1944 and moved to Delhi as a permanent employee in 1946.

She passed away on 22 February, 2009 at the age of 87. It was passing of an era.


For six decades, at one time or another she wrote about Cinema for The Statesman, The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, Indian Express and more recently, Pioneer and Tribune.
And for television: 

She worked with stalwarts like Melville de Mellow and A.S. Bokhari and interviewed people such as Satyajit Ray, Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard, John Masters, David Niven and Alfred Hitchcock. Malik’s work in both AIR and Doordarshan comprise important chapters in the history of Indian broadcasting. Sadly, many of these are now missing. Typically, Doordarshan managed to erase the recording of Amita’s joint interview with Satyajit Ray and Marlon Brando and her interview with the ‘father of the documentary’ John Grierson, who founded the National Film Board of Canada. A similar fate met the 1975 roundtable discussion she had with Elia Kazan, Akira Kurosawa, Satyajit Ray and Michelangelo Antonioni. This ‘lost archive’ would have been a treasure anywhere in the world.
[- Hindustan Times Story on Amita Malik ]

Amita Malik brought up the subject of loss these precious archives into public after the death of Marlon Brando in 2004. In a piece for The Tribune (dated July 10, 2004) she wrote:
 When I heard of the death of Marlon Brando, my mind went back to the priceless conversation I had anchored between Satyajit Ray and Marlon Brando in 1967, when Brando came to Delhi as ambassador for UNICEF. Doordarshan was the only TV channel at the time, and after re-telecasting it a few times, it just lost the tape. They could not tell if they had erased or lost it. Appeals to several I &B Ministers and those under them led nowhere. That classic conversation between two giants of the cinema was lost forever. The same is the fate of a panel discussion I anchored with Kurosawa, Ray, Antonioni and Elia Kazan. The BBC had originally asked for it, but being patriotic, I gave preference to DD and paid for it. That classic too is lost forever.

Only if she had been a bit unpatriotic, maybe..what a loss!

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 Images:
  • Amita Malik
Caps from the lost archive -
  • Amita Malik in1975 round table discussion with Akira Kurosawa, Satyajit Ray, Michelangelo Antonioni and Elia Kazan.
  • Satyajit Ray and Marlon Brando with Amita Malik in 1967
 The images are from Amita Malik's autobiography 'Amita, No Holds Barred' [ HarperCollins, Rs 295]. A treasure in itself!
 [An extract from the book at Outlook|: she recalls an incident, during Indira Gandhi times in which she crossed swords on subject of caste with famous Mark Tully of BBC ]

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For one thing, things like these may never be lost thanks to the 'free culture' of today.

Anyway, Doordarshan is now trying to make up and is digitalizing its huge archives [HT Story]. Some of these archived programs, mostly on classical music, can now be seen  late night on DD Bharati channel. Or watch those rare NFDC films on Lok Sabha TV channel.

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