New Delhi: Gemini Color Lab, the 56-year old film-processing laboratory in Chennai has finally breathed its last.
With this, the last surviving film processing lab has also marked an end to the era of analog film-making; handing over the reins completely to its digital alternate which began a decade before with the Kamal Hassan starrer – Mumbai Express.
It was the only one that began with the introduction of cinema in South India in 1910.
An official of Gemini Industries and Imaging Ltd., on a condition of anonymity, told to Times of India newspaper, “In the past year, there's been a drastic change in the number of filmmakers using digital cameras. We realized that bringing back the analog film format will not work.”
He told that the celluloid lab was actually shut down in December 2014 and its last big produce was Tamil film ‘I', directed by Shankar.
Looking into the past, Gemini Lab was set up as a film processing division of Gemini Industries in 1958 and has developed around 6000 films in different languages till date.
The group was founded in 1940 by S S Vasan, one of the big studio owners of Chennai during 50s and 60s.
Apart from Gemini there were two more labs which processed and printed motion pictures which had already shut. To name, they were – Vijaya Labs and L V Prasad Film Lab.
The company which has changed hands now caters to film-makers through its digital post-production division.
However, with the shutting down of the analog lab, a concern still looms over – Who will preserve the 6000 master negatives of the films processed at the lab and stored here for years?
The repository includes films in Telugu, Malyalam and Tamil stored at a particular temperature. They had never been taken out expect once or twice when the producer wanted a new print to be made.
Some negatives are as old as the inception of the lab in 1958 which are being planned to be handed over to the producers of the respective films.
“However”, as told by a representative of Gemini Industries and Imaging Ltd to TOI, “we will continue to store negatives of big film banners who are still our customers in the digital production division”.
After the request initiated by the Malyalam film Industry, the Kerala Government has also agreed to take back the negatives of Malyalam films and create an archive of the same.
But the film historians continue to remain concerned for the rest of the negatives as who else can preserve them best.
K Hariharan, a film historian, said, “In 90% of films, it is the distributor who owns the right for the master negative as they finance the project. But once the distributors exploit the film, they forget about the master. As for the negative, the biggest enemy is humidity. So unless they don't spend money and preserve it properly or convert in to digital format, it will rot. We do have many labs that convert film to digital in Chennai.”
The historians have recommended converting the films to digital mode in order to preserve the legacy.