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
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). 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). 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)
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!"