'Her infectious energy drew everyone towards her'
Acclaimed filmmaker and educationalist Vijaya Mulay passed away at her Delhi home on Sunday. She was 98. Founder of the Delhi Film Society, she is perhaps best known for directing Ek Anek Aur Ekta (1974), that was broadcast on Doordarshan and earned the National Film Award for Best Education Film. “It has captured the imagination of multiple generations. One really misses that idea of unity and diversity made evident through it (the film) and it is something we will all cherish,” said Mumbai-based director and cinematographer Avijit Mukul Kishore on Ek Anek Aur Ekta, which was also the first film to emerge from the animation studios of the National
Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
Mumbai-born Mulay established the Delhi Film Society in the ’50s with merely 22 members. She presided over the Central Board of Film Certification from 1962 to 1967 and also served as joint secretary of the Federation of Film Societies in the ’60s. She was the driving force behind an array of educational films produced for the Center for Educational Technology (CET) from the ’70s onwards, that were broadcast in over 2,400 villages in four languages.
Known to be straightforward, the film historian, writer and researcher was bestowed several prestigious awards, including the V Shantaram Award for Lifetime Achievement for documentaries at the Mumbai International Film Festival in 2002, and Vikram Sarabhai Life Time Achievement Award for educational communication in 1999. Among the over 35 films that she helped bring out, her dearest project was reportedly the four-minute feature Na, aimed at children aged between six to nine, to help them recognise the letter ‘Na’. Her celebrated works also include Gangubai Hangal, a biographical film on Gangubai Hangal (renowned exponent of Hindustani classical music hailing from the Kirana gharana) and the documentary The Tidal Bore, where she recalled how she witnessed tidal bore during her walks alongside Hooghly River, where 15-feet high tides would erupt from the Bay of Bengal.
Mourning Mulay’s loss on social media, National Award-winning film critic Meenakshi Shedde stated, “Akka enjoyed close friendships with Satyajit Ray, French filmmaker Louis Malle and others; they helped her make her documentary The Tidal Bore.”
Delhi-based award-winning filmmaker and film critic Utpal Borpujari fondly recalls how he would often meet Mulay at various film screenings in the Capital. “Although there was a huge age gap, her infectious energy drew everyone towards her, especially when she spoke of her association with filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen. We used to listen to her like kids listening to stories from their grandmother,” said Borpujari.
Mother of actor Suhasini Mulay, Vijaya also won the National Film Award for Best Book on Cinema in 2011 for her book From Rajahs and Yogis to Gandhi and Beyond: Images of India in International Films of the 20th Century (Seagull Books). Her endeavour to promote primary education through films was evident with her participation in government initiatives such as Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) and CET.
A month after receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the seventh CMS Vatavaran Film Festival in Delhi in 2014, in an interview to The Indian Express, Vijaya said, “When you do something and it comes out right, it feels nice when people enjoy it.”