Monday, June 25, 2012

Kalpana / Imagination [2012 digital restoration]

IN 1948. D: Uday Shankar. SC: Uday Shankar, Amritlal Nagar. DP: K. Ramnoth. ED: N.K. Gopal. AD: K.R. Sharma. C: Uday Shankar (Udayan / lo scrittore), Amala Uday Shankar (Uma), Lakhmt Kanta (Kamini), Dr. G V. Subbarao (maestro), Brijo Behari Banerji (padre di Uma). PC: Udai Shankar Production. 2K DCP. 155’. Hindi version. From: World Cinema Foundation / National Museum of Singapore. Monday 25 July 2012, Cinema Lumière - Sala Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in English. Introduced by Shivendra Singh Dungaspur.

Restored in 2012 by the World Cinema Foundation at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory (Cineteca di Bologna) from original film elements preserved at the National Film Archive of India. Special thanks to Shivendra Singh and the family of Uday Shankar

The Il Cinema Ritrovato Catalogue: "A great work of hallucinatory, homemade expressionism and ecstatic beauty, Uday Shankar’s Kalpana is one of the enduring classics of Indian cinema. Shankar, the brother of the great Ravi Shankar, was one of the central figures in the history of Indian dance, fusing Indian classical forms with western techniques. In the late 1930s, he established his own dance academy in the Himalayas, whose students included his brother Ravi and future filmmaker Guru Dutt (who worked as an assistant in Kalpana). After the closure of the academy in the early 40s, Shankar started preparations on his one and only film, many years in the making."

"Kalpana, with an autobiographical narrative of a dancer who dreams of establishing his own academy (starring Uday Shankar and his wife, the great Amala Shankar – the film also marks the debut of Padmini, who was 17 years old at the time), is one of the few real ‘dance films’ – in other words, a film that doesn’t just include dance sequences, but whose primary physical vocabulary is dance. A commercial failure when it was released, the film is now regarded, justifiably, as a creative peak in the history of independent Indian filmmaking."

"Kalpana has been digitally restored by the World Cinema Foundation at Cineteca di Bologna / L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory using a combined dupe negative and a positive print held at the National Film Archive of India."

"The combined dupe negative was badly damaged and marked by lines, tears, dirt, dust, white marks and poor definition. The restoration required a considerable amount of both physical and digital repair in order to recover the beauty of faces, movements and costumes, and to reduce the aforementioned issues."

"The original sound was digitally transferred from the combined dupe negative. Digital cleaning and background noise reduction was applied. The restoration has generated a duplicate negative, new optical soundtrack negative for preservation as well as a complete back-up of all the files produced by the digital restoration." The Il Cinema Ritrovato catalogue.

AA: Restored and rediscovered one of the most remarkable dance films of all times. In his introduction, Shivendra Singh Dungaspur explained that Kalpana presents seven important forms of classical Indian dance which required months and months of practise. Gurus were involved, rehearsals started with prayers, and religious advisors had no idea what shooting a film meant. The title of Uday Shankar's film is written in letters of fire. The story starts with satiric scenes at Thunderstruck Studios where "box office is our God". The editing is fast, the comedy is farcical, and there are amateurish qualities in the narrative. But with the dream sequences, when the music and the dancing take over, the film moves into an exalted realm. The combination of the ridiculous and the sublime brings to mind Jean Cocteau's Orphic trilogy. There is a simple, stark force in the way the music and the dance scenes are lit, photographed and edited. There are a lot of superimpositions, beautiful and functional. When the troupe gains success there is a Hollywood style fast touring montage: Calcutta, Delhi, Karachi, Lahore, Agra, Madras, Bombay. Some plot turns may have been inspired by Hollywood musicals. The encyclopedic quality brings to mind the approach of Wim Wenders to document all aspects of the Pina Bausch experience. But such issues are just surface aspects of the framework. Kalpana is a deeply moving tribute to the holy inspiration of music and dance. It was so gripping that after one hour I needed a break to digest what I had seen and heard. Kalpana is a very important rediscovery. The music is marvellous. The dance performances of Amala Uday Shankar and her colleagues are breathtaking, and all the dance numbers are completely different. I look forward to experience Kalpana soon again. The digital restoration has been a labour of love from apparently very difficult sources.

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