Pune: Jagat Murari, a pioneer of the Indian film industry, passed away on 13 April in Pune, India surrounded by family, friends and colleagues.
Today’s Bollywood has much to thank him for: As principal and director, he developed the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. From its haloed portals passed out actors, actresses, directors and technicians who went onto give India’s silver screen a touch of professionalism.
Jaya Bachchan, Subhash Ghai, Shabana Azmi, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shatrughan Sinha were some of the alumni that immediately spring to mind.
An accomplished director and producer of over 50 documentaries and feature films, he was the first ever winner of the prestigious President’s Gold Medal for his film “Mahabalipuram” in 1954. His movies won several national awards and international acclaim at film festivals in Berlin, Venice, Edinburgh, San Francisco and Cannes.
For him, film making was synonymous with nation building. He raised the calibre of the Indian film industry on many fronts: professionalism, skills, scale and stature. An institution builder, credit for setting up the National Film Archive of India, Pune and the Film Festivals Directorate in New Delhi also go to him.
His stellar work saw him rub shoulders with national leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Rajendra Prasad, and Indira Gandhi. He even met with Mao Tse Tung and Chou En Lai when he visited China as part of a “Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai” film delegation in 1955.
What made Jagat Murari’s contribution noteworthy was the fact that he did 50 years ago what is considered “world class” today. His “Can-do” spirit, larger-than-life persona and passion for building enduring institutions were characteristics that set him apart. When Mr. Murari strode into any room, with his shock of white flowing hair and his charismatic presence, you knew a true leader had arrived.
He was one of the first Indians to go overseas to study film making at the prestigious University of Southern California, USA, way back in 1945 and started his film career at the Films Division, Mumbai in 1948.
Some of the movies that he made were Jai Jawan, Jai Makan, Rakhi Rakhi, Piya ka Ghar and Bijli. His documentary,“Story of Steel” won the Certificate of Merit at the International Festival of Scientific and Documentary Films in Venice, Italy in 1951.
“Wonder of Work” won the President’s Certificate of Merit in 1956 and the first prize, in the film competition on Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland, 1957 and “Homi Bhabha - A scientist in action” won the Best Experimental Film, National Film Awards, India (1973).