What's Next for Kalpana (1948)?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012
I decided to take a stroll at the World Cinema Foundation's website today (2019 update, apparently the foundation is now called the Film Foundation of which the World Cinema Project is a part), and look what is on their homepage front and center!

It's an imaginative image from Kalpana!  I'm almost convinced the middle and right women are Lalitha and Padmini, respectively! (Could the one on the left be Ragini?  I'm not so sure).  Lovely to see an image of Padmini in her debut film (as Richard at the Dances on the Footpath blog noted some time ago).  And even more wonderful that this image is the face of the WCF website at present...well, until the animation changes. :)  This of course means that they have updated the "Restored Films" section for 2012 with a page dedicated to Kalpana (though it's the same info and photo from the press kit material on the Cannes website). 

After the flurry of press about Uday Shankar's Kalpana playing at the Cannes Film Festival and its momentous screening on May 17, I've been eagerly awaiting more information about the film and any possible distribution.  I had this fantasy of finding a deluge of excited blog posts and articles about the film and maybe seeing a rare clip or two.  But then I remembered that Cannes is a high-falutin' event for film-world folks, not us small peons, and that interest in Kalpana is somewhat of a niche thing.  While there's been a dusting of coverage of the film screening in some major newspapers (see the end of the post) and some brief blog chatter, I was hoping for a monsoon!

On a whim I decided to contact the World Cinema Foundation regarding if Kalpana would be distributed in any way and figured I would either not get a response or receive a generic reply.  But given that 2012 has been the year of luck at this blog, I soon received a gracious response from a Foundation representative!
Regarding distribution – recently, the WCF has received a few requests for KALPANA to screen at various festivals, cinematheques and film societies. As soon as those are confirmed we will post them on our website. Due to a backlog of titles, KALPANA will probably not be released on DVD for at least another 1-2 years. We apologize for the delay but in the interim please keep checking back for other WCF DVD releases. 
Notice that the rep was not discussing if Kalpana would be released on DVD but only WHEN!  And while we'll have to wait a couple years or more, the news that there is a light at the end of the tunnel is astonishing.

I was surprised that the rep didn't mention the site MUBI.com.  The New York Times ran an article back in 2009 announcing that Scorsese had "decided to embrace digital distribution for movies restored by his World Cinema Foundation" and all films restored by the WCF each year would be viewable online at theauteurs.com (which is now MUBI.com) and Netflix and iTunes.  I'm guessing Netflix and iTunes didn't turn out to be viable options given their recent history, but MUBI has been going strong and they do have a page reserved for Kalpana. 

How heartening it is to hear how much Scorsese understands the importance of these rare films. On the MUBI.com page announcing the "first line-up of films restored with the aid of the World Cinema Foundation," Scorsese wrote, "They don’t deserve to be kept a secret. They deserve to be known."  Absolutely!

The rep also mentioned the film's requested screening at various festivals, etc.   The WCF's screening schedule page is not yet updated, but I've read at least one account of a screening at the film festival in Bologna so I'm sure there are others.  And what about it being screened in the most obvious of all places, India? It's not looking good at present.

So all of us eager fans will just have to be patient and wait for a DVD and possible online release! I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Interesting Article Snippets

Some revealing details about the film and its Cannes screening have popped up in various news articles in the past few months.  Here are some of my favorites:

Mamata Shankar related that Uday's widow, Amala Shankar, had spent years contacting people in high places to get Kalpana restored but none showed interest.  Uday's brother, sitarist Ravi Shankar "took the initiative for the restoration" and met with Martin Scorsese, but soon someone "claimed copyrights over the film" (source article at india.nydailynews.com no longer available).  It was Shivendra Singh who revealed that "Uday Shankar had given the film to his second wife" (The Hindu), so I think it's reasonable to assume she was the one claiming copyright.  The F.I.G.H.T C.L.U.B. blog featured an interview with Shivendra Singh that revealed some apparent details in how difficult getting the cans of the film to the WCF was and his key role in that fight.

The most adorable thing I read about the film's screening was coverage of Uday's widow and Kalpana actress/dancer, Amala Shankar, attending the screening and beaming with delight.  "At the end of the film, the audience gave a standing ovation to the film, with shouts of “Bravo!” directed at Amala Shankar, the film’s heroine and Shankar’s wife, present in the audience. “At 93, I am the youngest film star you have at Cannes this year,” an emotional Amala told the audience. “We Indians believe in the concept of rebirth, and I feel I have taken a number of births to have got the chance to stand on this stage tonight, on an occasion like this. This is all the more special because this is the country where I met Uday when I was 11 years old" (DNAIndia). 

Most shocking was the revelation that Uday "thought he was too old to [be] dancing on screen in 'Kalpana', so after shooting 80 solo and partnered dance sequences, he edited out nearly all of them," but Amala "insisted on putting at least three or four of his dance sequences in" (source article at india.nydailynews.com no longer available).  80! And only a few were sliced back in? All that footage!

Last, I enjoyed reading Scorsese's response to the question, "Why did you take up the mammoth task of restoring Kalpana?" He said, "I have watched this creation of Uday Shankar and was fascinated by its content and choreography. I was in regular touch with the maestro's wife, Amala Shankar, and daughter Mamta Shankar. There is a unique rhythm in the film which is heart-touching..." ("Scorcese Speaks: A New Life for Indian Classics" article no longer available at week.manoramaonline.com)

The end!  Yes, I'm still working on my choreographer series... stay tuned! :)

Related post: "Kalpana (1948) to be Screened at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival!"


  1. What a nice picture. Ragini was born in 1937 (?) and so it seems unlikely that it is Ragini on the left.

    1. gaddeswarup - I think you are right since that woman is definitely not 11. :) And it really doesn't look much like her at all, in my opinion.

  2. Dear Friend,

    Happy to see an imaginary photo of Ragini,Lalitha and Padmini.Iam sure of Lalitha and Padmini(Travncore Sisters).The first from the left may be Ragini Devi(Udayasankars follower from US).I remember,Pappi Akkan referring to the instance that paved way for and her sister Lalitha to be invited to UdayaShankar's Kalpana in 1944,where she had specified that Udaya Shakar was impressed by their dance at VJT Hall,Trivandrum.She specified that as Rakki was so small,she didnt dance....
    As far as my knowledge,Rakki began with a dance performance in a Kannada Movie(source: Malayalam film magazine - edition on Ragini's Wedding-1965).

    1. Manu - Hello. Interesting suggestion that the left-most dancer might be Ragini Devi, but the dancer looks too young to be her (Ragini was born in 1896) so I doubt it is. There's a nice book recently written by Ragini's granddaughter with lots of pictures of Ragini and family: Dancing in the Family. Great info regarding Padmini's recollection of her sisters entrance into films; I assume "Pappi Akkan" is Padmini and "Rakki" is Ragini. I've been very eager to find out more information about the Travancore Sisters early life, but it's hard to find. :)

  3. Am happy for your valuable reply.I am a great fan of Travancore Sisters.Lallakkan ,Pappi Akkan and Rakki Akkan has always fascinated me.Not their beauty,but their life and valuable contributions to art.As far as I knew,they are the only siblings in film industry who unitedly worked in cinemas and stages holding hands and hearts.Hope u knew that Rakki was a versatile genius.She was a great photographer,English Poet,Singer and only dancer who did maximum male attires(among d trio).She couldn't play thamburu,as she had a on hand.So she asked Kukku(Sukumary)to play thaburu.A bit of Rakki's song is been played in Thikurishi's Achante Bharya"(remake of Shithi) and Udaya's Othenante Magan.
    Rakki was good at mimicry.I had heard(from her childhood friends) that she use to imitate all the visitors who came Malaya Cottage,Poojapura.She was always funny and comic.And always had a helping hand.She used to give her gold jewelers even!!
    Okkay,I invite you to my 3rd Grand Show -RAGINIYUM CANCERUM (RAGINI & CANCER)- A rare photo exhibition of Travancore Sisters and Awarness on Breast Cancer to be held on 8th &9th of September,2012 at SMSS Hindu Mahila Mandhiram Poojapura(d first school of Lalitha -Padmini).The function will be inaugurated by Honorable Health Minister,Govt of Kerala .Actor Krishna will be one of the special guests.Contemporary(ies) of Travancore Sisters will be honored .There will be Awareness Session on Breast Cancer and a Photo -Audio on Ragini and her life.Thrift of the show will b donated for d cause of women with breast cancer.. So please make it a point that you too join for a great cause.

  4. More brief glimpses of Lalita and Padmini, around two minutes in
    You might have posted this already in which case I missed it.

  5. Manu - Thanks for the charming information about the Travancore Sisters. Your photo exhibition sounds lovely - a beautiful way to remember Ragini but also bring awareness to her and others tragedy. I'm curious if you've considered digitizing the photos online to show them to a wider audience. All the best! ~Minai

  6. gaddeswarup - I've not seen that IndiaVideo.org video before. At first I thought the glimpses of Lalita/Padmini you mentioned were going to be from Kalpana! Unfortunately they are not, but I vaguely recognize those clips from other films--just can't remember the names. Also, I find it amusing that they are using the colored Kalpana poster from my first post on the Kalpana restoration. I also saw it used in a recent article on the film a commenter posted. I scanned the image from a book, so I'm pretty sure these folks are searching Google Images for Kalpana pics and using the colored one because it's new. :)

  7. There is some bad news

    1. What a rollercoaster ride this Kalpana journey has turned into! In case you haven't seen the other comment yet - Kalpana finally cleared customs!


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