First documentary on the Life of Mahatma Gandhi

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A. K. Chettiar’s documentary film on Gandhi is unique in many ways. It is credited to be the first documentary on Mahatma Gandhi. Chettiar, travelogue writer, journalist and documentary film maker from Tamil Nadu, started working on this project in 1937. He collected archival footage of Gandhi from several sources in several countries including India, UK and South Africa. With the 50,000 feet film he collected he started editing in the year 1940. The first version was released on 23 August 1940. Chettiar had to withdraw the film from the cinemas due to government censorship. The documentary was dubbed into Hindi and re-released after Indian independence in 1947. Since then it was believed for a long time that the print of the film was lost. Later in2006, an abridged version made in 1998 and dubbed in English was discovered at the San Francisco State University. Thanks to the efforts of the historian A. R. Venkatachalapathy. Another copy was found in the University of Pennsylvania. However the original documentary and other language versions are still missing.

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