Revered dancer-choreographer Uday Shankar's 1948 classic "Kalpana" is set for screening at the 65th Cannes International Film Festival May 17, and his 94-year-old widow Amala is as excited as a child about attending the extravaganza.
"Kalpana", which features Uday Shankar and Amala, has been chosen for screening at the Cannes Classics 2012 programme, which showcases restored prints of masterpieces.
The movie has been restored by Martin Scorcese's film-restoration company.
It's a moment of great joy for the late dancer-actor's family. Daughter, actress-dancer Mamata Shankar can barely contain her joy.
"We've waited very long for this. I feel especially happy for my mother (Amala), who has been hoping and praying 'Kalpana' would one day be in a condition to be screened again," said Mamata.
"She's the most excited among us. My sister-in-law Tanushree and I are accompanying her more like baby sitters. Yes, my 94-year-old mother is as excited as a little child about the premiere at Cannes in May 17," she added.
The three ladies will fly to Nice via Dubai next week for their three-day sojourn in Cannes.
With the joy comes the realisation of how little classics are valued in the country.
"My mother has gone through years of struggle to get 'Kalpana' restored. No one paid any attention to her plea. She approached so many influential people and the Bengal government. But no one was interested," Mamata said.
"And then this cineaste from America comes along like a saviour. We can't thank Mr. Martin Scorcese enough for doing what our own people didn't," she said.
"Kalpana" has been restored by Scorcese's World Cinema Foundation from a copy of the original negative preserved by the National Film Archive of India.
Recalling the events leading to its Cannes screening, Mamata said: "It was actually my Kaka, Pandit Ravi Shankar, who took the initiative for the restoration. Kaka met Martin Scorcese, who said he was a big fan of Kaka's brother, my father Uday Shankar's 'Kalpana', and that he'd love to restore the film. We immediately agreed."
Unfortunately, "Kalpana" got into a legal issue.
"As soon as news broke out that 'Kalpana' was going to be restored, suddenly people woke up to the film. We even had a litigation to deal with. Someone claimed copyrights over the film," Mamata recounted.
"It took us a while to liberate the film from the litigation. But the effort took its toll on all of us. We began to wonder why the film became important here in our country only when Mr. Scorcese showed interest in it. Where was everyone before that? Actually even Satyajit Ray's 'Pather Panchali' got recognition only after the West saw its merits," she said.
Nevertheless, she and her mother are excited to see "Kalpana" at Cannes.
"We want it to reach out to new generations of movie-goers who have so far had no access to the film. We are not sure of how the film will be treated after Cannes and how it goes forward. At the moment, we're just focusing on revelling in the screening at Cannes," she added.
The proud daughter reveals there are many versions of "Kalpana".
"My father edited the film repeatedly. Do you know he thought he was too old to dancing on screen in 'Kalpana', so after shooting 80 solo and partnered dance sequences, he edited out nearly all of them."
"My mother insisted on putting at least three or four of his dance sequences in. That's how you see at least some of his dancing in the film," said Mamata, who is sure "Baba will be smiling down" during the film's screening at the prestigious film fest.
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