India on Film: 1899-1947
An extraordinary collection of films capturing India before independence.
At the stroke of midnight on 14/15 August 1947, India finally achieved independence from Britain. Seventy years on, India on Film offers access to an unparalleled collection of films from the BFI National Archive exploring lives – both Indian and British – across the subcontinent during the early 20th century. Comprising over 200 non-fiction films, most unseen for decades, the collection takes in temples and tigers, durbars and devil dancers, girl guides and Gandhi. The films inevitably offer a partial view of life in India; with a few exceptions, they were shot by British filmmakers. But between them they serve up revealing insights and countless indelible images. This collection of newly digitised films is part of the BFI's contribution to the UK-India Year of Culture 2017. The collection includes films of places that were part of India pre-Partition, including what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh. Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) was ruled by Britain as a Crown Colony directly from London. Given the many links with mainland India during this period the collection includes a few films of Ceylon.
Panorama of Calcutta, India, From the River Ganges.Panorama of Calcutta, India, From the River Ganges.
One of the earliest films to be shot in India apparently shows the Calcutta ghats - or does it?
Villenour. (French India: Territory of Pondicherry)Villenour. (French India: Territory of Pondicherry)
Gorgeously dreamlike colour images of (then) French India – present-day Puducherry
Indian elephants in action as working animals and in hunting, filmed by celebrated hunter-turned-conservationist Jim Corbett
Amateur film19474 minsSilent
Millions of Muslims flee to Lahore in the newly created state of Pakistan, prompted by the partition of British India
Amateur film193210 minsSilent
The thronging streets of Chennai in festive mood are captured by this lively amateur film
Wedding of Maharaj Kumar Shri Meghrajji Shaeb of Kutch and Maharaj Shri of Kishangarh, 1933Wedding of Maharaj Kumar Shri Meghrajji Shaeb of Kutch and Maharaj Shri of Kishangarh, 1933
Amateur film193342 minsSilent
Fireworks, illuminations and traditional dance all feature in a stunningly opulent royal wedding at Kundla, Gujarat
In India Today: Gandhi : Stormy Petrel of Indian Politics Pathé Gazette No. 1705In India Today: Gandhi : Stormy Petrel of Indian Politics Pathé Gazette No. 1705
Newsreel capturing the final leg of Mahatma Gandhi’s epic 24-day march through Gujarat to break the colonial salt laws.
Mahatma Gandhi's arrival in England for the second India Round Table Conference at St James's Palace
The "rich and vivid spectacle" of the Durbar held for the Maharaja of Alwar is captured in gorgeous Technicolor by Jack Cardiff in this travelogue.
A compelling case for the involvement of the United States in Britain’s Indian Empire is made, in this comprehensive survey of the war effort in India.
5th Calcutta Battalion: Presentation of Colours by H.E. The Viceroy5th Calcutta Battalion: Presentation of Colours by H.E. The Viceroy
The inauguration of a unit of the Indian Defence Force in Calcutta (now Kolkata)
A journey across north India from the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir to the iconic architecture of Rajasthan.
West and Central India
A journey through central and west India from Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh to Gujarat and Maharashtra.
East and North-East India
A journey from Odisha to Kolkata to the Buddhist communities of West Bengal and the diverse people of the north-eastern states.
A journey through the temples of Tamil Nadu via Kerala to spectacular ceremonies and processions in Mysuru and Hyderabad.
Somewhere in India
We know that these films were shot in India, but where? Can you help us to identify the locations?
Across what is now Pakistan from Karachi through Balochistan to Lahore and onwards to the North West Frontier