A brief history of the film society movement

By Colonel SC Khullar (founder President Doon Film Society)

All over the world intellectuals, thinkers and film aficionados seek association with established film societies, not merely to serve their passion for this form of art, but also as a validation of their intellect. Dehradun’s own film society, “REACH Talkies-Doon Film Society” will itself be completing three years, since its inception. Yet to many the term ‘film society’ continues to be a vague concept. This blog is my attempt to explain briefly, aims and objectives of a Film Society and the back ground of “Film Society Movement”.

The first film society was established on 25th October 1925 at London by H G Wells, G B Shaw, M Keynes and some other intellectuals. During its first season, the Film Society had screened 39 films – 20 of which had never been screened in England before. This was the primary objective of the society: to screen more of the avant-garde material which would not have found an outlet in the commercial cinema. It continues to be the raison d’être for the Doon Film Society as well.

In over nine decades, the Film Society Movement (FSM) has spread world over. The film societies have made their presence felt everywhere and proved their relevance by creating an audience with a taste for realistic, artistic and socially relevant cinema. The FSM has also inspired many film makers to make films with aesthetic and artistic approach.

Certain amount of intellect and knowledge about the film is required to be able to understand and appreciate Art films. Film societies provide members the information about the film’s historical, social or political background; the filmmaker, and cast. Screening begins with introduction to the film and ends with a discussion by members, sometimes in the presence of film experts, to get to the soul of the film, and the style of the filmmaker. Film appreciation courses are run to enable members to analyse structure of the film, its characterization, composition of shots, lighting, sound, movement of the camera and characters etc.

History of Film Society Movement in India:

Satyajit Ray pioneered the FSM in India in 1947, with the formation of Calcutta Film Society, to liberate Indian cinema from the shackles of commercialisation. This followed the formation of other societies in Delhi, Agra, Bombay, Madras, Patna & Roorkee.


The movement received further boost in the fifties. Pt Jawaharlal Nehru understood the importance of cinema as an instrument for social change and role of  the film societies in promotion of this kind of cinema. He decided to promote and nurture politically responsible and socially progressive cinema to change the feudal Indian society into a modern society. For this he created institutions like Film & Television Institute of India (FTII), National Film Archives of India (NFAI), National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) and Film Finance Corporation (FFC) etc. He however kept the job of creating an aware audience for Cinema, out of the purview of babudom and entrusted this responsibility to the nascent FSM.

To make FSM a country-wide movement, the Federation of Film Societies of India (FFSI) was formed on Dec 13, 1959 with Satyajit Ray as the President and Indira Gandhi the Vice President. Mrs Gandhi was so deeply involved with the promotion of  the FSM that she continued to hold this appointment even after becoming the minister of Information and Broadcasting. Credit goes to her efforts for obtaining the censorship exemption for foreign films and the entertainment tax exemption for the screening done by film societies. This added further momentum and by the end of sixties, the number of film societies had risen from seven to 150.Socety Movement

Like the consumer’s movement the FSM is also fighting against an established system. The directors associated with this movement have played an important role in this fight. Most of these directors came from the FSM. Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, G Arvindan, Basu Chatterjee, Shyam Benegal, Girish Kasarvalli, Dr. Jabbar Patel, M S Sathyu, and Ketan Mehta to name a few. These film-makers created a genre of their own for providing healthy entertainment that was distinct from the commercial cinema. The genre is popularly known as Indian Parallel Cinema.

Good Cinema is a reflection of the time & society. It is meant to be enjoyed not merely by movie buffs but is also aimed at anyone who considers himself to be an involved citizen of the world. It has been our endeavour, through Doon Film Society, to expose members to variety of quality cinema, from the early classics to the avant garde and also selected works of the legends from mainstreams cinema. So far we have presented cinema from China, Mongolia, Japan, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Europe, Latin America, & Scandinavia, Russia.

Here’s an opportunity for Doon-ites to carry forward the Film Society Movement, belong to a film fraternity that thrives on Art Cinema & share this culturally entertaining & intellectually stimulating journey. For more information about Doon Film Society, please contact at <prez.reachtalkies@gmail.com>.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shalini.kataria Shalini Kataria

    A big thank you Col. Khullar for all your efforts to bring the Film Society Movement to Dehradun. We are indeed lucky that we can see such a vast genre of films right here in Dehradun. Look forward to more people joining and enjoying the wonderful movies brought to Doon by the Doon Film Society.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shashank.gowda.7777 Shashank Gowda

    its and good but the exclusive work of fsm should elobrated