Uday Shankar's 1948 dance-ballet film Kalpana has been restored by Martin Scorcese's film-restoration company and will be premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival on May 17.
It's a moment of great joy for the late dancer-actor's family.
"We've waited very long for this," says his daughter Mamata Shankar. "I feel specially happy for my mother (Amala Shankar), who was hoping that Kalpana be screened again. She's the most excited among us. My sister-in-law Tanushree and I are accompanying her to Cannes. My 94-year-old mother is as excited as a little child about the premiere."
The three ladies will fly next week to Nice via Dubai for their three-day sojourn in Cannes.
With joy comes the sobering realisation of how little we value our classics.
Mamata says, "My mother has gone through years of struggle to get Kalpana restored. No one paid any attention to her plea. She approached so many influential people and the Bengal government too. But no one was interested. And then this cineaste from America comes along like a saviour. We can't thank Mr Martin Scorcese enough for doing what our own people didn't."
Recalling the events leading to the huge event, Mamata says, "It was actually my Kaka, Pandit Ravi Shankar who took the initiative for the restoration. Kaka met Martin Scorcese who said he was a big fan of my father Uday Shankar's Kalpana and that he'd love to restore the film. We immediately agreed."
Unfortunately, Kalpana got into a legal issue.
She says, "As soon as news broke out, people suddenly woke up to the film. We even had a litigation to deal with. Someone claimed copyrights over the film. It took us a while to liberate the film from the litigation. But the effort took its toll on all of us. We began to wonder why the film became important here in our country only when Mr Scorcese showed interest in it? Where was everyone before that? Actually even Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali got recognition only after the West saw its merits."
Mamata and her mother can't wait to see the film at Cannes. "We want it to reach out to the new generation of movie-goers who have so far had no access to the film. We are not sure of how the film will be treated after Cannes and how it will go forward. At the moment we're just focusing on revelling in the screening at Cannes."
The proud daughter reveals that there are many versions of Kalpana. "My father edited the film repeatedly. Few know that he 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. My mother insisted on putting at least three-four of his dance sequences in."
She signs off, "When the film is screened at Cannes I am sure Baba will be smiling down at all of us."
Photograph Courtesy: Niyogi Books