indian cinema heritage foundation

Rustom Master

  • Real Name: Rustom Phirozsha Master
  • Born: 25 /05/1902 (Bombay)

Cinematographer Rustom Master is known for films such as Amar Raj (1946) and District Officer (1945). Two documentary films, which he cinematographed, were also presented in competition at the illustrious Cannes Film Festival, namely Folk Dances of India (1954) and Green Glory (1952).

District Officer was a short film (documentary) directed by the Ceylon-born actor-director Kenneth Villiers. It was produced by the Information Films of India (IFI), and distributed throughout the British Empire by the Central Film Library, Imperial Institute (London). District Officers were a crucial element of the British administration in India. Recruitment had been extended to Indians from late Victorian times but their numbers grew particularly after Britain’s declared aim of self-government for the Raj in 1917. By 1929 there were 367 Indian Civil Servants to 894 Europeans and by the end of the war (the time of this film) there were 510 Indians to 429 Europeans. This was partly due to an ever increasing difficulty in recruiting Europeans.

By the end of the war and with Independence which had been promised in response to the Quit India campaign at hand, these Indian district officers began to make political alliances to carry them into the future. On 11 December 1946, Lord Wavell, Viceroy of India announced to the Cabinet of India’s committee that the Indian ICS officers ‘could no longer be relied upon to carry out a firm policy’.

According to www.Colonial, the documentary shows an Indian District Officer at work. He is part of the Indian Civil Service, and mediates local disputes and manages local affairs in the district of Bengal. With a conventional two-part form, the first section—which lasts nearly three minutes—portrays the regional setting and moves from a map and statistics to generalised shots of the region. The second longer section, of nine minutes, focuses on the individual who lives within this setting. ‘The film uses an authoritative British male voice-over throughout to structure the scenes and which promises knowledge both of an unknown place and its inhabitants’. The ideology of the film is best described as liberal imperialism at the end of Empire. The general narrative is one of progress in which the historical reclamation of land from the sea which signals man’s triumph over Nature blends seamlessly into the new forms of transport and communication, particularly railways and telephones. Thus the historical facts of British conquest and domination are transformed into natural progress. The film was made two years after the disastrous Bengal Famine, caused not by shortage of food but by maladministration. The film never mentions the famine but it portrays a picture of an efficient and humane administration that would never let another such disaster happen.”

The following year, Master cinematographed the feature film Amar Raj, directed by Homi Wadia and starring Naseem Jr. as Princess Usha,Trilok Kapoor as Kamal, H Prakash as Amar Jyoti, Rehana as Menaka, and Nirupa Roy as Bakula. Produced by J B H Wadia, the film had music by Firoz Nizami and lyrics by Pandit Phani and Ishwar Chandra Kapoor. Some of the songs included Dil pukaare re, Todo dil ke taar, and Mere mann mein jaaga pyar

The documentary film Green Glory (1952), which he cinematographed, was screened in the short films competition at Cannes. Directed by M Ahmed, it had script/ dialogue by S T Berkeley Hill and music by Shri Vishnudas Shirali

The documentary Folk Dances of India (1954), which he also cinematographed, was also screened in competition – short films, at Cannes. Directed by Moham Dayaram Bhavnani, it had script/ dialogue by A Bhaskar Roa and music by Shri Vishnudas Shirali.