The Cannes Film Festival paid tribute to Uday Shankar last evening by screening his 1948 movie, Kalpana, in the prestigious Classics Section.
Digitally restored by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation from an original dupe negative preserved at the National Film Archive of India with the active help of and funding by Shivendra Singh and Shankar’s family, Kalpana was screened to a full auditorium and in the presence of Shankar’s widow, Amala, and daughter, Mamata.
In a moving speech, 93-year-old Amala said that France held a special place in her heart, because it was in Paris that she had first met Uday as a 11-year-old girl.
Kalpana – looking as fresh as it had just popped out of the cans – is a black and white spectacle which uses dance and music to narrate the story of a meek writer who struggles to sell his script, and is taunted and rejected by many, including a formula-driven producer.
Interestingly, as Amala herself said, Kalpana goes beyond cinema, dance and music to critique a young India torn between idealism and means to get rich quickly. The dilemma of several political isms and the animosity that some politicians had for others of their ilk find a covert expression in Kalpana. But these cannot be missed, and the issues raised in the work are still relevant in today’s India.
Uday Shankar took four years to make the movie, the only one he ever made. He died in 1977.