Having preserved five versions of the iconic film “Devdas” for years, the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) located in Pune had desperately been searching for that one elusive version which it believed was the first-ever talkie version of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s classic. Today, it finally managed to procure that with a little help from its Bangladesh counterpart.
A DVD copy of the first-ever talkie Devdas—made by P.C Barua in 1935–was handed over to the NFAI by a visiting delegation from the Bangladesh Film Archive. As a reciprocal gesture, the NFAI handed over a copy of the silent film “Raja Harishchandra” to the Bangladesh side.
“P.C Barua made Devdas thrice. The first two versions were made in Bengali and Hindi respectively in 1935. His third Devdas was in Assamese. The Hindi version made by Barua starred the legendary Kundan Lal Saigal in the lead role and was the oldest version of Devdas available in India,” Prakash Magdum, Director of the NFAI told The Indian Express. “The first-ever talkie version of Devdas starred Barua himself as Devdas, Jamuna Barua as Parvati (Paro) and Chandrabati Devi as Chandramukhi,” Magdum added.
In addition to the Devdas starring KL Saigal, the NFAI had four more versions of the film (three in Hindi and one in Telugu). These included Bimal Roy’s Devdas (1955), Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas (2002) and Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D (2009).
“As per our information, no copy or print of the Devdas made by Barua in 1935 was available in the country. Several attempts were made to find and locate it and finally it was discovered that the Bangladesh Film Archive has it. For some time, it was common knowledge that Bangladesh has copy,” Magdum added.
During a meeting of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) in Canberra in April this year, Magdum—who was representing India at the meet—raised the matter with his Bangladesh counterpart. “The Bangladesh officials were very positive. Today, when they visited NFAI, they handed over to us a DVD copy of the Devdas we had been hunting for for years,” the NFAI Director said.
Having procured a DVD copy of the one hour and 33 minutes long film the NFAI is now planning to request the Bangladesh Film Archive to also provide a print version of the classic. “The DVD we have got today is of reasonable quality. They (Bangladesh Film Archive) have not restored the film, but have only digitized it. We would request them to hand over a print of the film as well so that we may restore and preserve it,” Magdum said.
The Bangladeshis, meanwhile, are learnt to have shown interest in several films the NFAI has which relate to the Bangladesh Liberation struggle and several other Bengali films. The NFAI, meanwhile, is preparing its own list so be able to exchange some more films with the neighbour.
The 1935 first-ever talkie version of Devdas starred Barua himself as Devdas, Jamuna Barua as Parvati (Paro) and Chandrabati Devi as Chandramukhi.
The Bangladesh delegation that handed over the much sought after DVD to NFAI comprised of Murtaza Ahmad, Secretary of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Information and Dr. Mohammad Jahangir Hossain, Director General of Bangladesh Film Archive.