Burmah Shell Corporation, Bombay

In 1954 Dad left the National Film Board when he got an opportunity to create a documentary film production unit in Bombay, India for the Burmah Shell Corporation. From 1954-48 Dad produced 40 films across the country. His film "Himalayan Tapestry; The Craftsmen of Kashmir" won the 1957 President's Gold Medal Award for Best Documentary Film.

After WWII and the formation of UNESCO in 1945, there were concerted efforts to use film as a tool for nation-building around the world. India was defined as one of the key emergent countries, rising out of the ashes of colonialism. Dad applied his Griersonian principles in earnest, helping to shape India's national film board "The Indian Films Division" following the NFB model. His filmmaking followed similar NFB principles.

According to Shama Habibullah, a prominent Indian film producer,

“If you show the titles of those films to people today, they'll say, 'oh but these are not issue based'. But look at what they did. They were themselves issues. They were the ones that created the concept of how you would delve into finding out what the issues were. Until you knew what that was, which was really like the bricks, you wouldn't know what your country was to even find an issue in, at that particular point.”

My parents' experience in India had a profound impact upon them. I was born in Bombay in 1957. When I asked Mom why they baptized my two older brothers but not me, Mom said that they forgot. I think it was really because my parents had become more Hindu than Christian. India laid claim to their souls. I was ten months old when they packed the family on a steamship and we cruised back to London, England.

 

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