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Celluloid man hits Kalpana high

A still from Kalpana

The man who helped Martin Scorsese restore Uday Shankar’s 1948 classic Kalpana is in town for the film festival with his documentary film, Celluloid Man, about the lost classics of Indian cinema.

The first screening of Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s film was at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute on Monday, where it created a buzz. A second screening is scheduled at Nandan III on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Dungarpur spoke to Metro about the struggle to restore Kalpana and why we need to preserve movies for posterity.

“Films are a part of our history and culture and we need to preserve them,” Dungarpur said. “The majority of our classics are lost to us forever and Celluloid Man attempts to bring the importance of preservation and restoration of our films into national focus.”

“I was at the Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival in Bologna, Italy, when I was asked by a Martin Scorsese aide whether I could help them procure Kalpana for restoration. I knew if I could procure it somehow, it would shift the preservation focus to India, what with Scorsese being involved,” said Dungarpur.

“I tried to get it from the National Film Archive of India but made little headway. Uday Shankar had given a dupe negative (rough cut) to P.K. Nair (the founder-director of the archive) in 1970 and it had a lot of cuts. We got it out of the archive but the film was the subject of litigation. Amala Shankar, Mamata Shankar and Tanusree Shankar supported me fully but the film didn’t belong to them because Uday had given it away.

“The final print was lying with a person who wasn’t interested in giving it to us. The battle to get it was very long and took nearly a year but we finally got it. We sent it off to Bologna to Scorsese’s foundation, World Cinema Foundation, which restores Asian films.”

Kalpana was screened in the classics section at Cannes this year, where it created a buzz. “I took Amala Shankar to Cannes, where she walked the red carpet and everyone wanted to watch the film. It was such a huge high.”

Kalpana has set the preservation-restoration ball rolling in India and Dungarpur hopes Celluloid Man would strike a chord. “With the success of Kalpana, many in India are at least now aware what preservation and restoration of cinema are all about,” he signed off.