Open Database


The building of an open and extensible database as an online archival tool for researchers is one of the key tasks that the The History and Practice of Cinematography in India Project undertook in the course of its development.

The process of looking for pre-existing archival resources on technology and technical aspects of cinema practice led us to encounter the paucity of accessible and open repositories of information about cinema and cinema history in the public domain in India. While there are a few searchable databases built around song titles, and there is a limited internet filmography of Indian cinema, none of these sets of data pays any attention to cinematography and cinema technology.

Moreover, we knew that not everything from the large amount of facts ,testimonies, interviews and sets of material that we had gathered would necessarily be processed in the form of finished research reports, essays or other results. This meant that there would always be a body of potentially useful and interesting material that would not reach the public domain if they were not processed into a publicly accessible form.

Both these factors - the existing paucity of information resources, and the generation of a body of materials that required public rendition - led us to work on the creation of a database on cinematographic practice in India.

We felt that without a systematic set of information resources about technological developments in cinematographic practice, and about its technicians, it would be difficult for any researcher to pursue any serious theoretical enquiries into the practice of cinematography in India.

The database will be located at Sarai: The New Media Initiative, and in time will also be hosted on the Sarai website. Presently available are pdf files of the transcripts of the interviews, the master questionnaire, as well as other materials that we have gathered in the course of our research. We invite other people to use the the questionnaire (which can be printed) to input additional interviews so that the database keeps getting enriched on a regular basis.

We welcome usage of the material for educational and non commercial purposes only, as long as credits for the interviews, essays or any other materials are duly acknowledged. Please write to with any requests for accessing primary materials.

At present the database has the following holdings
1. Interviews
2. Essays
3. The project proposal
4. The Questionnaire
5. Thematic n
otes (on Light, Colour, Darkness)
6. Production stills
7. A timeline of cinematography
8. A list of web links and resources
9. A bibliography

The database will also grow to include lists of awards, filmographies, a chronology of technological and aesthetic developments, a glossary of technical terms and description of cinematographically significant scenes, with a bank of film and production stills, facsimilies of shooting notes and art directors sketches. All contributions are welcome, and the contributor will of course be acknowledged.

The database will be built on "Greenstone", a free database software developed by the New Zealand Digital Library, at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. The Greenstone Digital Library software provides a new way of organizing information and making it available over the Internet or on CD-ROM. It is open-source software, available under the terms of the Gnu public license.

You can find out more about Greenstone at