Movie lovers would soon be able to see Sunil Dutt and Mala Sinha running around trees in the film Gumrah wearing coloured clothing, instead of black & white. It's not an easy job by any yardstick -- one techie working for the whole day can restructure and colour only 2 seconds of the film.
Westwings Inc Ltd, a Goa firm, claims to have pioneered this extremely tedious business. It has got a contract to colour old movies and clean them up so that they can be preserved permanently and made visually more pleasant.
Said to be the only company in India, which does this job, Westwing mainly works to restore, clean and colour old Hollywood titles bought by Sony Entertainment.
The technology has been developed locally. Westwing has already restored movies like Three Stooges, and The War Lover directed by Arthur Hornblower, apart from fourteen other Hollywood movies.
A company official said, "It is a closely guarded software and a very costly process. A full manday can only produce two seconds of clean picture. So it is also very labour intensive. We have around 50 employees now and are training the second batch, but the demand is huge. While the Hollywood people can afford the cost, Bollywood title-holders will find it expensive."
The official said B R Chopra too has commissioned work on four of his films.
Due to inadequate preservation efforts in India, it takes around $4,000 to clean up a film, let alone colour it. So after spending Rs 100,000 to clean black & while frames, colouring it will cost a couple of lakhs more. But the investment is permanent. The film's new compact disk format stays forever," he added.
Westwings was unable to process the first film commissioned to it, Naya Daur, as the frames were badly damaged. But it is successfully refurbishing Gumrah, Dhool ka Phool and Ek hi Raasta.
A Westwing engineer said, "We have 16.59 million colours on our palette and combining them to suit the image, frame and time is a tedious job. But such work generate employment as each Hindi film takes around three months to complete by a 100-strong team."While the software development was costly, now it can reap money. Intellectual property rights through protection of own film heritage is important, but unfortunately such huge cost can only be borne by the big banners."