The Central Office of Information
The National Archives has records from the Central Office of Information which made thousands of films to educate and inform the public about such issues as child safety, crime prevention and health.
Insaaf, which is the Urdu word for ‘fair play’ or ‘justice’, is the title of a 1971 film made by the Central Office of Information. It features actors Marc Zuber, Rafiq Anwar, Sahab Qizilbash and Aziz Resham among others.
The film was targeted at the British South Asian community with the aim of raising awareness about the 1968 Race Relations Act. This Act made it illegal to refuse housing, employment, or public services to a person on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins.
The film is a 40-minute drama following the story of a 16-year-old British South Asian boy, given the affectionate nickname, Chhotu, by his family.
Chhotu is turned down for a job despite having an apparently successful interview, and this sparks a discussion with his family over dinner. His older brother, Munna, believes racism is an inevitable barrier, but his parents see education as a way to improve job prospects.
Chhotu contacts the Race Relations Board with his complaint, and a representative has discussions with the family. Later, at a committee meeting, it is agreed that the employer has discriminated against Chhotu.
The Race Relations Board representative contacts the employer and explains how he has failed to meet his responsibilities under the 1968 Race Relations Act. Subsequently, the employer agrees to pay a compensatory sum to Chhotu and to offer him a job with the company.
What does Insaaf tell us?
The film opens up a window on a particular cultural group – or a government portrayal of that group – at a particular time. It raises interesting questions about culture, language, representation and the history of South Asian communities in Britain.
Making the film
The National Archives has the Central Office of Information’s file about the making of Insaaf. It includes a translation of the Urdu sections into English, letters about recruiting actors, comments about the initial storyline, and copies of publicity posters and leaflets.