When National Awards for films were instituted in 1951, it was thought important to collect and maintain award-winning films. Later, the value of collecting significant cinemas, in general, came to be recognized and the National Film Archives at Pune began acquiring both Indian and foreign films. The chief objection to enlarging the scope of the archives beyond award-winning films was that trivial 'escapist entertainment' should not be preserved.
Very few people understand that an archive preserves material for future history; it is impossible to say what, as a fact of the present, a future historian or sociologist might find significant. And archive has to declare some independence from current standards of value. From an archive's point of view, a cheap film is as valuable as a record as a world masterpiece.
A number of producers who had the foresight to deposit their films/negatives with the archive in its early days now enjoy the benefits of a well-preserved negative or master positive. The average Indian filmmaker is not in the habit of taking out a master positive or dupe negative of his film before scoring the required number of release prints. Often the original negatives have become totally unserviceable four or five years after the release of the film due to excessive scoring of prints.
Preservation of national cinema is the primary concern of any film archive. If we ourselves are not going to preserve our films, nobody else will do it for us. Therefore, top priority has to be given to the acquisition and preservation of our own national cinema - especially the little that is left of our older films. At the same time, we cannot forget international cinema. In fact, no study of Indian Cinema would be complete without understanding the trends in world cinema and the work of the masters. The Archive membership of FIAF (International Federation of Film Archives) has helped in building up our international collection to some extent. Some recent "trendsetting" films have also been acquired against foreign exchange. The prices vary according to the use negotiated for. Rights of duplication and circulation to film societies involve additional payment. This makes it necessary to collect nominal service charges from film societies and other borrowers of the Archive Distribution Library.