The best thing about celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema at the ongoing Mumbai Film Festival (MFF) has been the two silent movie packages. One of them has four of Dadasaheb Phalkes movies Kaliya Mardan (1919),Shri Krishna Janma (1918),Lanka Dahan (1917) and Raja Harishchandra (1913). The other comprises two of Baburao Painters films,Sati Savitri (1927) and Murlivala (1927) as well as Kalipada Das’ Jamai Babu (1931). Both these packages were screened on Tuesday to the accompaniment of music that was instrumental in recreating Indian cinemas earliest era.
To compose music for Phalkes film screenings,Kausal Inamdar went back to the stories of his grandfather Shankarrao Biniwale regarding his association with silent movies. Biniwale was a violinist and he played music during the screenings of Bhajli Pendharkars silent movies. He even composed music for V Shantarams first talkie,Ayodhyacha Raja (1932) . Those days,musicians used to play live as the movies were screened, recollects Inamdar,who has composed music for recent Marathi movies Balgandharv and Ajintha .
For Balgandharv,Inamdar had studied several ancient music instruments as well as traditions. This came handy when MFF officials approached him to play live orchestra. He used the old-style peddle harmonium,violin,tabla and percussion. Most interesting part of his orchestra was the use of conch as young Krishna emerges from underwater after taming the evil serpent Kaliya. The music we played was acoustic and its tempo was not hampered by the use of electronic instruments.
The brief of festival director Srinivas Narayan to the musicians was to use soft,traditional Indian tune. Musician Madhav Vijay did that efficiently while viewers enjoyed the rare opportunity of watching work of Painter and Das. We tried to recreate the atmosphere of the late 20s. For Jamai Babu ,the music had a Bengali flavour, he says.
However,the prints shown at MFF are Digital Cinema Package prints . According to the restoration man of Indian cinema PK Nair the charm of watching 35 mm prints would have been much better. Celluloid Man,a documentary on Nairs work in archiving old Indian movies,was screened at the festival on Monday. He,however,has been utilising his Mumbai stay in watching restored movies from across the world under a special segment introduced this year. He felt that American movie Leave her to Heaven has lost some of its techni-colour effect in the restored version while in case of Satyajit Rays Charulata soundtrack has a more metallic touch thanks to the digitisation process it involves.
The high point of Tuesday was the much-awaited screening of Michael Hanekes Amour. This tragic,yet beautiful,story of a couple in their 80s saw a packed house at Jamshed Bhaba Theatre.
Augustine: This French period drama explores the relationship between a pioneering 19th-century neurologist and his star teenage patient. At Jamshed Bhaba Theatre,6 pm
Fogo: This hour-long docu-fiction talks about the harsh life of a small community on Fogo island that’s becoming part of Tundra landscape. At Inox Screen 4,8.15 pm
Me And You: Italian director Bernado Bertoluccis latest movie is about a 14-year-old loner. His life changes when his 20-something half sister shows up. At Cinemax Screen 1,Sion,8 pm.