Amitabh Bachchan Presented with the 2021 FIAF Award

The Presentation ceremony was live-streamed from Mumbai on 19 March 2021 at 6pm (India standard time). The event featured former FIAF Award recipients Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan.

You can download the official press release HERE.

Watch the video of the event:

Amitabh Bachchan's 2021 FIAF Award Acceptance Speech

I’d just like to say I’m deeply honoured to have been chosen as the recipient of the 2021 FIAF Award. Before I say anything else, do excuse the shades [indicates his tinted glasses]. They’re not a style statement; it’s just that I’ve had an urgent eye surgery and I need to have some protection.

I would like to thank all the gentlemen that spoke before me. These are great iconic figures, and to hear them talk about me is a moment that I look upon with great grace. I am least deserving of some of the words and expressions that you’ve used, but I do believe that the cause that we are putting our minds and hearts to is most noble and very worthy.

I’d like to thank FIAF, for bestowing this Award on me. I would also like to express my gratitude to Mr. Martin Scorsese and Mr. Christopher Nolan, whom I had the great honour of meeting. Actually, I met Mr. Martin Scorsese as well, some years ago at a Cannes Film Festival. I don’t think he would remember. Baz Luhrman had brought his film The Great Gatsby for the inaugural of the Cannes Film Festival. And at a dinner that was hosted by Mr. Abramovich in his villa, that’s where we met Mr. Martin Scorsese. So I’d like to thank them for taking the time to be a part of this ceremony, and for their words of appreciation.

I am aware of their dedication to preserving and restoring cinema, and I consider it a privilege to join an esteemed group of artists around the entire world working for the common cause of preserving our cinematic heritage. As artists I believe we have a duty to preserve what we create. Our work represents a lifetime of passion and devotion to our craft. We need to ensure that we preserve this legacy, in memory of all those who came before us. And in recognition of the moving image as an art form, and a visual document of humankind.

This is a great honour, and something that not just the film industry in India, but my own country, I hope, will be very proud of. I am just a very small element in the Indian film industry. When you honour me, you honour the Indian film industry, you honour my country. But most of all, you honour this cause, of film preservation. Thank you.

Q&A (Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Founder Director Film Heritage Foundation, and Amitabh Bachchan)

SSD: Sir, I wanted to ask you a couple of questions, as we’re talking about preservation. The first question that came to my mind is, Why do you think it’s important to preserve our cinematic heritage?

AB: Well, to be very honest, Shivendra, you know, I had not been drawn towards this until I met you. And I’d like to thank my wife, Jaya, for introducing you to me. And informing me about what is happening in the field of film preservation, and how important it is. We don’t ask this question about monuments, about paintings, crafts, folk art, dance, and theatre. As we instinctively accept that these are all living symbols of our history and culture. Unfortunately, cinema, which is a relatively new entrant in the world of arts, being only a little over a century old, is generally regarded in India as a medium of mass entertainment.   And so, to be forgotten once the lights come up, is almost unpardonable. In the world we live in today, the moving image is one of the most pervasive influences in our lives. Films in all forms are a reflection of who we are, and the times we live in, making them an integral part of our social and cultural heritage. When we preserve films, we are preserving our history.

SSD: What would be your role as an ambassador, now, when you look at [it], in terms of posterity, when we talk about India’s cinematic heritage? How would you look at your role as an ambassador?

AB: Well, if you remember our first meeting, and the first function that we had, at the opera house, when I was asked to become the ambassador, one of the things I said was, If I can become an ambassador to promote film or Gujarat tourism, surely this is a much more important cause. I’ve been working closely with the Film Heritage Foundation since the year 2015, to propagate and support their efforts to preserve India’s film heritage. We have sparked a movement for film preservation in India, and all our neighbouring countries. In just a few years. We’ve trained archivists at our six annual film preservation workshops. We’ve been collecting every bit of our heritage that we can. As a result of which, we have a rapidly growing collection of films and film-related memorabilia, representing the diverse range of our country’s cinema.

But there is much that needs to be done. The most important of which is to realize our vision to set up the country’s first centre of the moving image, dedicated to the celebration of the art, [the] culture, the heritage of film. The centre will be a living testament to India’s rich film heritage, and its power to reflect and influence our culture. As an ambassador for the cause it is my goal to do everything in my power and campaign for the support of the government and my colleagues in the film industry to make this vision a reality. We are the largest film-making nation in the entire world. And it would be a great loss if we cannot preserve what we have been creating for the past hundred years. And therefore it makes this vision, of yours, and the Film Heritage Foundation, and FIAF, for giving me this responsibility in a way, of promoting film preservation. It is indeed a very important element in our lives. We will be dead and gone, but we have to leave something for posterity.

SSD: Thank you very much, Sir. It’s really an honour.

Informal discussion, after main live-stream [AB and SDD]

AB: I’ve always believed that cinema is one of the greatest integrators in the world. In this fast disintegrating world. Cinema is one element that unites, brings us together. When we buy a ticket to go into a theatre, we never ask the caste, the creed, the colour, the religion, of the person sitting next to us. Yet we watch the same product, we laugh at the same jokes, we cry over the same sentiment, we sing the same songs. In today’s world, where do you find these elements? You find it in cinema. And therefore its preservation is extremely important.

Promotional video about Amitabh Bachchan, 2021 FIAF Award recipient