Awe, awesome and Sholay in 3D

Not too long ago, I read an inspiring compilation ’16 Brilliant Movie Quotes from 16 Great Directors’ on a blog.

Although every single declaration for cinema there is nothing short of a Lothario expressing crushing love for his beloved, this one quotation by Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky resonated last Saturday afternoon when I attended a session of Cinema 100, a 3-day event to commemorate India cinema centenary at Subhash Ghai’s Whistling Woods International.

Tarkovsky says, ‘Unlike all the other art forms, film is able to seize and render the passage of time, to stop it, almost to possess it in infinity. I’d say that film is the sculpting of time.’

I cannot explain the sense of awe and admiration I experience strolling through this ‘sculpting’ in a lingering corridor of posters, prints, facts and legends revealing carefully collected motifs of Hindi cinema’s history.

The extensive program — planned and executed — by the genial and committed alumni and students of Whistling Woods underscores the amount of thought, dedication and detailing gone in accomplishing this endeavor, including various screenings as well as interactive workshops/sessions with artists and filmmakers.

Although the real purpose of my visit is to catch a (micro) mini-preview of Ramesh Sippy’s classic Sholay in 3D, its one-hour delay insists I preoccupy myself with other ongoing activities.

I don’t mind, of course. I am losing my mind admiring an entire wall of one of my favourite filmmaker’s trophies. Hrishikesh Mukerjee’s family graciously consented to loan his collection of honors and awards, which are proudly displayed on a mantle outside the auditorium.

The master of feel-good cinema passed away almost six years ago but the sanguinity of his creations lives on. As I pinch my eyes to read the details on these somewhat rusty keepsakes of glory, I suddenly become very conscious of the fact that I am just a few inches away from his Padma Vibhushan, Dadasaheb Phalke Award, and numerous Filmfare’s for films like Madhumati, Anand and Khubsoorat alongside Silver Jubilee trophies of classics like Anupama, Anand and Abhimaan. Silently, I marvel at these mute statues for as long as possible. Being a souvenir enthusiast, this is quite a thrilling moment for me.

More of which follows as I enter the 250-capacity auditorium to watch a brief screening of Chetan Anand’s black and white war epic Haqeeqat. We’re shown the brilliant Hindi-Chini-Bhai-Bhai clip, wherein an overpowering percentage of Chinese Army march towards Indian territory even as our soldiers carry on a hold-your-fire instruction of their superior. This is followed by an eight-minute show reel of the classic’s most strategic moments. Only this time, in colour. And, let me tell you, it looks quite promising. Moreover, the sheer kick of watching something of this magnitude on big screen is at once too emotional and awesome to explain.

The late filmmaker’s son Ketan Anand explains how the idea of colourising the film came about while filming the Television series, Param Vir Chakra for Doordarshan in Ladakh (where Haqeeqat was previously shot with a single Mitchell camera) when his father gushed about the striking landscape and its hues.

While the original was shot in 2-3months at a budget of Rs 7 lakhs, its digitally restored, colorized Cinemascope avatar took a good three years and a couple of crores to take off. Taking heed from the disappointing response to uncle Dev Anand’s Hum Dono Rangeen, Ketan has decided to market this as a completely new film with a shorter duration (2 hrs, 10 mins) and a brand new background score. High on patriotic melodies like Ab tumhare hawale watan, Haqeeqat is slated to hit the screens later in August this year.

And finally the moment, nearly everyone was waiting for – a three-minute exclusive peek of the most popular film since 1975 in 3D.

Not before a representative of Maya Digital Studios acquaints us with the basics of three-dimension technology and the painstaking intricacies involved in create a single frame. Just so you know a work force of two stereographers and 250 conversion artists worked on this project, funded by PEN’s Jayantilal Gada. So how did the idea of Sholay in 3D happen?

Apparently, producer Sascha Sippy was looking for an idea to make Sholay immortal (than it already is?) and Ketan Mehta (he owns Maya Digital) suggested he could convert it into 3D and re-release.

A comparative study of scratched/dusty images against restored/enhanced ones reveals the extent of effort put in to inject fresh life into a 37-year-old negative. Although technologically advanced for its time, Sholay wasn’t shot with a 3D perspective.

We’re shown two versions of the same clip—the famous train robbery sequence, both in its original and 3D format. The difference is remarkable.

Personally, I am not a big fan of wearing 3D glasses. Plus, having them on for a three-hour plus film seems too cumbersome. That’s why I really appreciate what they’ve done here. Even if you take off the glasses to take a breather, the screen doesn’t get all blurred like it normally would. You can still see a decent enough picture.

More than the 3D impact, which is fleeting but fun – especially when a log comes hurling into your face – it’s the revived colour, clarity and prospect of seeing a Jai-Veeru-Gabbar-Thakur-Basanti reunion on big screen (for many of us it would be the first time) that makes the return of the baap of all entertainers worth the wait (another 5-6 months).

Kyon Samba, kitne dimension the?

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