Bh S S Prakash Reddy of Hyderabad Film Club (HFC) does not remember when he last attended any function in the family. “My relatives keep complaining about it,” smiles the 69-year-old. At the film club’s office in Sri Sarathi Studios, Ameerpet, Prakash Reddy walks in with a file of papers documenting achievements of the club. This year, HFC completes 45 years and his list of things to be completed is ready before they launch their 21-day European film festival.
A film buff’s initiative
“HFC was registered in 1974 with an intent to promote good cinema in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad,” he recalls. Started by a film enthusiast, M Philip, HFL was one of the the first film clubs in Hyderabad to screen movies from across India and the globe. HFC’s parent body is the Federation of Film Society of India (Satyajit Ray was the secretary in 1948) in Kolkata. Hyderabad is one among the four regional offices and in fact it is the regional office for south India.
Focus on world cinema
Prakash Reddy recalls that the first non-Telugu film he watched was Chomana Dudi in Kannada, in his native town Vijayawada. “I was a member of Vijayawada Film Society and when I shifted to Hyderabad, I got pulled to this unique film club. As a PA in the Irrigation department, Government of AP, the advantage was a lot of free time which I used for club’s activities,” He took over from Philip in 1983 and has been the club’s general secretary for 35 years now! A wide spectrum of movies from Germany, France Israel and Iran, to Japan, Korea and Taiwan have been screened here. While Prakash Reddy contacts the embassies to get movies, the embassies sometimes send movies as part of a cultural exchange programme.
RR Labs (now IICT) in Tarnaka was the first venue for these screenings. It shifted to NTR Studios (now closed down) in Musheerabad (Max Mueller Bhavan was also a venue to screen 16mm films) and then to its present venue, Sri Sarathi Studios in 1985. After the road widening due to Metro Rail construction, Sarathi Studios lost a portion of its land and its preview theatre with a capacity of 80 people was also renovated. “We pay only nominal amount to the Studios which helps us run our activities; their support is immense.”
The 80s was HFC’s golden period when film enthusiasts waited in large numbers to watch world cinema. “There was neither cable TV nor internet and ours was the only venue where one could catch different kinds of cinema. Cinema lovers and film industry people came here to watch films. Even now we get industry people,” he says. The crowds reduced slowly but the scene is changing for the better. “There is an interest in world cinema among young people,” he says.
HFC doesn’t ticket its shows and runs only on memberships. They charge ₹1000 (single) and ₹1500 (couple) annually and ₹10,000 for life membership. During screenings, movie buffs can never miss him standing at the doors and encouraging people to take memberships.
Movie buffs still remember the international film festivals hosted by HFC in 2007 and 2008. Unlike the government organised international festivals, this was different and done by a private organisation. “We showed 80 films during the first festival and 150 in the week-long second international festival across the five screens of Prasads,” he recalls adding how crowds swelled up at Hari Hara Kala Bhavan for their the silver jubilee celebrations. “The 1400-capacity hall would be full on all the 25 days and we extended for another five days after people requests. K Venkateswara Rao, director of Sarathi Studios and president of the Club never misses a screening. Admiring Reddy’s patience and determination to carry forward the Club’s legacy, he says, “The auditorium is like a mini carnival during screenings; HFC brings cinema lovers and film industry people together to watch and discuss films from different countries; it introduces us to their culture and lifestyles and opens our perspective.” HFC organises special festivals inviting actors to come and watch their movies along with a select audience.
Prakash Reddy’s routine has not changed in all these years; He comes daily by 11am, takes a lunch break and stays back late in the evenings. “We do not have funds but have passion for cinema. It is a different experience to watch good cinema especially award-winning movies; more people in the film industry have to utilise this opportunity.”