The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Reborn in colour, after 44 years

Mumbai, Sept. 5: If K. Asif were alive today, he would have been a happy man. He had dreamt in colour and that dream has come true.

Asif, the man who made Mughal-e-Azam, the 1960 classic, could only shoot the last 20-odd minutes of the film in colour, because at that time colour was that expensive. But two months from now, the lavish Dilip Kumar-Madhubala costume drama will hit the big screen again, this time fully coloured.

A digital studio in Mumbai has restored the original negative and “colourised” the golden oldie. This has happened with Hollywood black-and-whites, but this is the first time in the world that a film is being restored and coloured in Cinemascope, claims Umar Siddiqui of Indian Academy of Arts and Animation.

So in the famous qawali scene the new viewers will see Madhubala as Anarkali wearing a bright orange ensemble and glittering gold jewellery trimmed with eggshell-white pearls, and when an angry Dilip Kumar as Salim confronts Prithviraj Kapoor as Akbar who pleads with his son, they both are dressed in dark, solemn earth-coloured robes. And everyone speaks in Dolby. Though the marble in the palace looks wan and very B&W.

“In Hollywood this is already a trend, but the films are in DVD format after colourisation,” says Siddiqui.

“We wanted to do something unique and decided to do up the film in Cinemascope,” says Siddiqui.

The colouring was a painstaking manual process, that started in December last year. “It is not as if there is a software which will automatically fill in the right colours. The film has to be done frame-by-frame, bit-by-bit,” says Siddiqui.

When a film is being coloured into a DVD format, the process is simpler.

But if it’s Cinemascope, the digital format has to be transferred back into a negative. About a hundred men were put on the job and they worked for 10 months in the Mumbai studio, colouring a cornice into marble colour here, the fold of Anarkali’s hem there. There was an art direction team of 10 to 12 people. The project cost Rs 4 crore, excluding the investment in technology, but Siddiqui says that since this was the first experiment, the cost was that much, but the expenses would go down to about Rs 3 crore later.

The new film has Naushad, the music director of the original who scored some all-time favourites for this film including Jo Wada Kiya Hai, who is working with a team to “recreate and rerecord the music on Dolby sound”.

The new Mughal-e-Azam, which will be ready for a global release by mid November in big screens and DVDs, will also mark the re-entry of construction major Shapoorji Pallonji into entertainment. The firm, the film’s original financiers, is financing this project, too.

Dilip Kumar is happy, too, with the all-colour epic, says Siddiqui, who adds that he is being approached by a number of people for similar “colourisation” projects. He says that he cannot name the projects, but if the plans work out, there will be two or three coloured projects by the end of next year, he says.

Siddiqui adds that not only the Indian film industry, but also people from the UK and Australia are in touch with him. “This will become a trend,” he says. If it is not one already.

B.R. Chopra’s Naya Daur (1957) is also being turned into all-colour. Producer Ravi Chopra of B.R. Films has hired a Florida-based company to colour six oldies made by the production house.

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