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‘Cinema should be given heritage status’

Filmmaker Shivendra Singh Dungarpur and colleague Irawati talk about the need for preserving films.

November 19, 2013 5:23:31 am

How did you get involved with restoration and conservation

of films?

Shivendra Singh Dungarpur: Thanks to my guru Gulzar saheb,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 since he felt we were losing them. By the time he started NFAI in 1964,we had lost 70-80 per cent. We made 1,700 silent films and of those,only five or six complete films remain.

Four years ago,I saw an interview of Martin Scorsese in which he said that people are restoring films in a laboratory called L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna,Italy. It hosts a festival in June-July,called Il Cinema Ritrovato,where these films are screened. It made me wonder about our own cinematic heritage.

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What is the process like?

SSD: Like a work of art; you have to correct it frame by frame. Researchers have to study the background of the film,what were the colours like and what were the impressions people had of the film. When Luchino Visconti’s 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 in this project. How do you aim to bridge that gap?

SSD: When we decided to set up our own foundation,we wondered if others would join us or not. Through talks and meeting film families,we have been telling them how important it is to preserve (films).

Irawati Harshe: There is a lack of awareness. We are trying to look at ways and means through our foundation to take it forward through education. So yes,this kind of work force needs to be built up in India.

Do copyright issues create a problem in the film restoration process?

SSD: 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 Scorsese’s foundation put money into it and that there was no money earned. It was his love for cinema.

Are you seeking help from the film fraternity?

SSD: We have approached some people. Some don’t have the time,some haven’t given it a thought. Actually,filmmaking in India has only been seen as a business over the years and never as an art form.

What are the other sources of funding?

SSD: We are looking at people from the fraternity and we hope that big companies will come forward. Cinema has had a powerful influence on India’s culture and we are not just talking about feature films. Films formulate our thinking,and way of life,the way we look at each other,and the way we form relationships. It has to be given a heritage status.

What role can television play in film restoration?

IH: They could screen the restored film. It could be part of a revenue model,they could opt for pay-per-view. Or if,they have a ‘classics’ television channel,the films could be shown on that channel.

Transcribed by Alaka Sahani,Amruta Lakhe,Meenakshi Iyer,Sankhayan Ghosh & Kevin Lobo

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