The Documentary Film in India (1948-1975)

  • DEPREZ, Camille (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


In 1948, one year after India's independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated Films Division (FD) to lead the production and distribution of documentary films, and participate in the project of nation building. Following the model of the Indian mixed economy, in which public and private sectors collaborated, 60% of FD films were produced internally, whilst 40% were commissioned from private companies, which also produced films outside of FD. These three areas of production (internal to, associated with and external to FD) made up the Indian documentary film sector of the 1950s. Whilst films made within that sector explored social issues, they were rarely able to do so from an overtly critical perspective. However, during the 1960s and early 1970s, this changed, as documentary films made in conjunction with, and outside of FD, began to question social inequality, and the role and actions of the state. At the same time, these films also began to explore film form more directly. However, this period of advance in Indian documentary film culture came to an end in 1975, when a government-decreed ‘State of Emergency’ imposed controls over the media, including the documentary film. The documentary film production of the period 1948-1975 was characterised by increasing formal experimentation and analytical social and political enquiry, and by a complex, mixed structure of state-sponsored monopoly and free-market operation. However, that production remains significantly under-researched.

The project proposed here will be the first to investigate this under-researched area of the documentary film sector in India from 1948 to 1975. It will research the economic and organizational structure of that sector, the themes and stylistic features of films produced, and the role played by official, professional and creative factors in the development of the sector.

The project builds on the PI's doctoral research on Indian film and television industries, and will combine archival research, interviews and film analysis, to arrive at conclusions on how the Indian documentary film sector developed against a context of national independence, consolidation of the commercial film, and the emergence of television and art cinema. The project will also aim to assess the significance of the films produced. This original project will thus make an important contribution to the field of documentary film studies and Indian film studies, and will also provide concrete research findings and a solid foundation for an envisioned later extension project, which will cover the longer, later period of 1975-2015.
Effective start/end date1/11/1430/04/16

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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