‘Preservation begins when a film goes on floors’

A discussion on ‘unique challenges of film preservation in India’ puts the spotlight on the lack of awareness in the industry.

Written by Alaka Sahani | Published: March 1, 2015 12:00 am
Kunal Kapoor, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Suresh Chabria and Anurag Kashyap (from left to right) Kunal Kapoor, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Suresh Chabria and Anurag Kashyap

As an actor, Shashi Kapoor straddled both popular and parallel Hindi cinema with equal ease, and in between, found time to act in English-language films set in India. As a producer, he was quite a maverick, showing amazing propensity towards off-beat and non-commercial ventures. Films produced by him — Junoon (1979), 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981), Vijeta (1982), Kalyug (1981) and Utsav (1984) — remain some of the landmark titles of Hindi cinema. Yet, when his eldest son Kunal Kapoor, nearly five years ago, thought of restoring the films made by his father, much to his shock, he found them in their garage. “The prints were earlier kept in a city lab. When that shut down, they were just lying in the garage,” recalled Kunal.

Speaking at a panel discussion on “Unique Challenges of Film Preservation in India: Past, Present and Future”, organised by Film Heritage Foundation (FHF), Kunal said, “The film preservation facilities were not up to the mark in India then and, like others in the industry, my father was not aware of better practices to protect his films.” Such lack of awareness towards preservation and restoration of movies, which pushed most of our silent movies into oblivion, continues even today.

A still from Utsav A still from Utsav

Though director-producer Anurag Kashyap made his first movie, Paanch, more than a decade ago, he does not have its original print. Parts of his second film, Black Friday, too are lost. “Since Paanch never reached the theatres and Black Friday’s release was delayed, the lab where the latter was stored perhaps did not pay much attention to the print. Also, labs did not care about films that do not have big stars,” pointed out Kashyap, who, along with former NFAI director Suresh Chabria and Kunal, took part in the panel discussion moderated by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, the founder of FHF.

Luckily for Kunal, Junoon and 36 Chowringhee Lane were restored in the ’80s using the technique available then. Utsav, however, was less fortunate. Its negatives, kept in the Prithvi House basement, were damaged when it was flooded. “We found a copy of Utsav at NFAI. They had the copy as the government norm demanded that every National Award-winning film send a print to the NFAI for preservation.” he said.

A still from 36 Chowringhee Lane A still from 36 Chowringhee Lane

Kunal has already made two scanned copies of Utsav — the first copy of the 1984 film was not up to the mark. With this, Kunal’s endeavour to restore five of his father’s movies is on track. However, Kunal is clueless about the monies this whole exercise will require. “I’m still ignorant about the process. I’m at the mercy of technicians,” he said. The restoration of Junoon is nearly complete. The scanned copies of others have been stored in appropriate conditions.

“The process of preserving a film begins the moment a project takes off. So, select your stock and labs carefully. The filmmaker should not rely on the government agency alone. The film industry should be aware about the importance of protecting their work,” said Kashyap. Keen on preserving all his films, he blames the industry’s attitude. “The filmmakers are worried about their opening. We need to come forward and save our work,” he added.

Though the restoration of Shashi Kapoor’s movies is currently financed by Kunal, he hopes that changing times will open up avenues to showcase these films and chalk out a revenue model. Kashyap echoed this and said movie buffs should not hesitate to pay and download the restored prints.

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