It was a masterpiece of India’s cinematic golden age, a surreal blend of comedy and dance that told the story of a struggling writer’s attempt to break into the movies. But decades of heat and humidity severely damaged the only known copy of Kalpana, and the film was close to being lost forever.
Now it has found an unlikely saviour: Martin Scorsese. The American director’s World Cinema Foundation, set up to preserve classics of film history around the globe, plans to start restoring the neglected classic within months.
News that the director of Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver and Goodfellas has thrown his weight behind the project provoked delight among film buffs.
Satish Kaushik, actor and director, said: “I was thrilled when Martin Scorsese told me he was interested in all these old Indian dance classics. It’s really good news.”
Director Deepa Mehta, who sits on the board of the WCF, confirmed Scorsese’s personal interest and said it was important that such films were not lost. “We have become so overcome by Bollywood that Indian classic films get left by the wayside,” Mehta said.
Kalpana, a Hindi comedy-drama influenced by modernist trends in Europe, was directed by Uday Shankar, pioneer of Indian modern dance and the elder brother of sitar player Ravi Shankar.
“It is a cutting edge film, very forward looking,” said film critic and author Anupama Chopra. “It got so badly damaged that most of it was destroyed.” gns