One of the two Indian films being screened at Cannes this year is a restoration of the 1984 Hindi film Khandhar. It has been selected for the Cannes Classics at the 63rd Cannes Festival, one of the world’s oldest and prestigious film festivals, which commences today, May 12, and runs until May 23.
Directed and co-written by Mrinal Sen, famed for his political films, Khandhar stars Shabana Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah.
The Cannes jury had written to Mrinal Sen asking him to submit the film last year for the Cannes Classic section, but the print quality was in poor condition. “They asked for it again this year and it just happened that a pristine restoration had been done,” explains Anil Arjun, CEO of Reliance MediaWorks, the company that restored it.
The Cannes Classics
section is a non-competition section that aims to celebrate classic films from the past with brand new or restored prints. Khandhar shares space with 12 other films in that category, that include Psycho (1960) by Alfred Hitchhock, Le Grand Amour (1987) by Pierre Etaix, Luchino Viscon’s Il Gattopardo (1963), and Jean Renoir’s Boudu Save Des Eaux (1985).
Khandhar has been subtitled into French especially for the festival. Reliance MediaWorks won a tender to restore 1,000 classic Indian films lying at the National Film Archive of India last year, after the company had already worked on the restoration of some Disney classics.
It took 5,000 man-hours to restore Khandhar into a fresh 35mm reel at their restoration facilities in Navi Mumbai. Restoring films is a complex arduous process that involves removing dust, scratches, fungus, tears, water damage, distortions and stains, frame by frame, and restoring colour and faded images.
Haziness and noise is also removed from the sound. It can cost anywhere from Rs 5 to Rs 50 lakh, depending on the level of restoration required. Khandhar has been resored to pristine condition.
It had suffered from a number of issues including tearing, dirt, scratches, flickers, grains, noises, and image warps. Similarly, the film’s audio had been impaired following years of deterioration, Arjun explains.
“I am very excited that an old movie like this is being released in a way that is much more pleasing to the eye. It is a movie with an intriguing plot and storyline. Before being restored it was very hazy, irritating and unpleasant to watch with jerks and parts you could not see,” he says.
“When Khandhar was released, it was considered to be a landmark film because of Shabana Azmi, plus the director was very well known. However, it had more of a niche than mass market appeal,” he says. “We are honoured to have worked on restoring it and excited that Cannes Film Festival has recognised it,” he adds.
The other Indian film at Cannes
The other Indian film screening at Cannes this year is Udaan, a low budget movie directed by debutant director Vikramaditya Motwane. It has been written and produced by Anurag Kashyap, and will feature in the Un Certain Regard (a certain outlook) category, in the Official Selection, which aims to recognise young talent and encourage innovative, different and daring works from different cultures.
With a no star cast, it is one of 18 films in that section, sitting alongside films by masters such as Jean-Luc Godard and Manoel De Oliveira. It is the first Indian film in seven years to be in the Official Selection at Cannes.
Shekhar Kapur will serve on the Competition jury of the Official Selection, which hands out the prestigious Palme d’Or.
Khandhar (Ruins) is a Hindi film about a metro photographer called Subhash who goes to a village to take pictures of some old temples and ruins, as ruins fascinate him. While in the village, he gets acquainted with a young woman, named Jamini, who has had her heart broken in the past, by another visitor from a big city. The story angles on whether history will repeat itself, or whether the villager will find a way out of the ruins at last.
Udaan (To Take Flight) is a flick about the journey of a teenage boy wanting to break free from his shackles. After spending eight years in boarding school, Rohan returns to his hometown, the small industrial town of Jamshedpur, where he finds himself closeted with an authoritarian father and a younger half brother who he didn’t even know existed.
Forced to work in his father’s steel factory and study engineering against his wishes, he tries to forge his own life out of his given circumstances and pursue his dream of being a writer.