Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Haasan, Salman Khan, Javed Akhtar, are among the film celebrities venturing into NFTs – Non Fungible Tokens, as the memorabilia craze gets ready to move into NFTs. Linked to BlockChain technology, NFTs help authenticate or at least verify the originator, a process that’s reliable and would considerably lessen the risk of fakes. SMM Ausaja takes a look at this new emerging market.
Honouring and preserving cultural heritage should be a collective responsibility of a society, and a lot has been delved upon this cause across forums. Cinema is an element of culture, nomenclatures like “kitsch” and “popular culture” are just elitist add-ons.
Unfortunately in India there has been a general ignorance on the issue of saving cinema heritage, if we brush aside politically correct statements from the government officers across decades, or a belated formation of the National Film Archive of India in 1964, fifty one years after India’s first film!
It is common knowledge how we have lost a majority of films belonging to the silent era (1913-1934) and even those of 30s and 40s. There are hundreds of films till 1980s which are lost forever. In such apathy lasting decades, there have been luminaries who have led individual efforts in preserving cinema heritage in a different form – the memorabilia collectors. If there is no print available of D G Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra (1913), we had a collector like B D Garga who left behind a few original stills from the film. If Ardeshir Irani’s pioneering Alam Ara (1931) is lost for ever, we had a couple of avid archivists like Feroze Rangoonwalla and Abdul Ali who carefully preserved its original booklet. If Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s only film Natir Puja (1932) can’t be viewed by this generation, its original booklet can still be accessed – preserved by a memorabilia enthusiast somewhere.
The West has been careful. Even for Charlie Chaplin there is a museum. Here we don’t even a statue of Ashok Kumar, India’s first superstar. Yet there has been a palpable change since the 90s. The Bowrings auction in 2002 where the collection of B D Garga and JBH Wadia went under the hammer, was an event that raised eyebrows and triggered the interest in collectors to expand and value their archive. A major buyer of this auction was Neville Tuli, the founder chairman of Osians Connoisseurs of Art – the premier auction house that not only led the cinema auctions thereafter, but also helped create value for Indian Cinema memorabilia across the globe. Posters that were otherwise discarded as junk by producers/distributors suddenly had value! It was at the Osians auction that Shah Rukh Khan outbid a Delhi based collector to pick up two Mughal-e-Azam posters for INR 6.84 Lakh setting a record.
For the fast depleting segment of vintage film memorabilia, there is a steadily rising stock that is catching the attention of not just collectors but also investors. A poster which sold for INR 500 ten years back may not be available for even INR 50,000 today!
As in the art market, there is also a worry for genuine collectibles. Online outlets have mushroomed selling cheaper options, but there is no guarantee of what they send you being a first release poster or a locally printed re-release version. Since the supply of rare collectibles is down to a trickle, stores of the flea markets have mostly closed shop. Now the chunk of good authentic film memorabilia rests either with collectors or with archives like Osianama, Cinestaan, Cinemaazi and the Shivendra Singh Dungarpur helmed Film Heritage Foundation.
For a film enthusiast, the objects of desire are many – posters of classics and posters of big stars sell well, closely followed by films that made waves and bagged awards. Amitabh, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor lead. Next come the three Khans – SRK, Aamir and Salman among male stars. Nargis, Madhubala and Meena Kumari remain most popular among old actresses, followed by Waheeda Rehman, Hema, Rekha, Sridevi and Madhuri.
Concurrently Satyajit Ray and Shyam Benegal memorabilia is also hugely popular. Posters, Booklets, Lobby Cards, Show Cards, Vinyl LP Records, Post Cards, Stills and magazines form the core of collectibles, and there is merchandise in the form of playing cards, Thermos Flasks, Calendars etc.
Now the memorabilia craze is set to transition to NFTs – Non Fungible Tokens that are linked to BlockChain technology thereby authenticating or at least verifying the originator, a process that’s reliable and would considerably lessen the risk of fakes. With names like Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Haasan, Salman Khan, Javed Akhtar, Sameer Anjaan, Dharmesh Darshan, Johny Lever venturing into NFTs, this new vista is set to be stable unless there is some legal constraint on Crypto currency, a trading unit most NFTs are linked with. Furthermore, the NFTs would also be absorbed in the Metaverse world of stars and entities, as the experience of the virtual world culminates in the Artificial Intelligence based domains.
Platforms like Fantico, WazirX, BeyondLife, Rarible, JetSynthesys are luring the celebrities as well as collectors. There is also an interesting trickle of investors in this niche market, considering the way the memorabilia stocks are shooting up. The future looks promising.
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