How did you get involved with film restoration and conservation?
Thanks to my guru Gulzar saab,I was studying direction at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII),Pune,where I met P K Nair,then the director of National Film Archive of India (NFAI),Pune. He was into preserving films then since he felt we were losing them. By the time he started NFAI in 1964,we had lost 70-80 per cent of our heritage. We made 1,700 silent films and of those,only five or six complete films remain.
After I left FTII,I had forgotten all about this until four years ago. I saw an interview of Martin Scorsese in which he said that people are restoring films in a laboratory called LImmagine Ritrovata in Bologna,Italy. They host a festival there called Il Cinema Ritrovato,in which these films are screened. That made me wonder about our own cinematic heritage.
While restoring movies,what is the process followed
Like a work of art,you have to correct it frame by frame. Researchers have to study the background of the film,whether people who were part of the film are alive,what were the colours like and what were the impressions people had of the film. When Luchino Viscontis The Leopard was being restored,Scorsese would say the colour of the roses in the scene were not correct because a particular kind of rose was brought in from Milan. So,they had to keep redoing the frames until they got the colour right. You need an artist and a film historian looking into the restoration process.
Are there enough artistes to oversee the preservation work in this project. How do you aim to bridge that gap?
When we decided to set up our own foundation,we did think whether others would join us or not. Through talks and meeting film families,we have been telling them how important it is to preserve (films).
Do copyright issues create a problem in the film restoration process?
In India,copyright is a complex issue. For instance,in the case of Kalpana,there was initially a dispute. People found it hard to believe that Scorseses foundation put money into it and that there was no money earned. It was his love for cinema.
Are you not seeking help from the film fraternity?
We have approached some people. Some dont have the time,some havent given it a thought. It comes from the fact that filmmaking in India,over the years,has only been seen as a business and never as an art form.
What is the other source of funding?
The main sources we are looking at are people from the fraternity and we hope that big companies will come forward realising the value of our cinematic heritage. Cinema has had a powerful influence on Indias culture and we are not just talking about feature films. Films formulate our thinking,way of life,the way we look at each other,and the way we form relationships. It has to be given heritage status.
Is there a plan for building an ecosystem needed for restoration?
The government should have a national plan to save Indian films. It is important that public-private partnerships are formed for this with the film industry playing an active part.
Transcribed by alaka sahani,amruta lakhe,meenakshi iyer,kevin lobo & sankhayan ghosh