Ravi Chopra is a happy man. In a year's time, viewers will see a young Dilip Kumar singing Saathi haath badhana from Naya Daur, the 1957 black-and-white hit co-starring Vyjayantimala, Ajit and Jeevan, in colour.
Naya Daur was produced under the BR Films banner and directed by Ravi's father B R Chopra.
BR Films has tied up with West Wing Studios Inc, a US-based firm that will take up colour-convertion of at least nine such famous black-and-white films from the 1950s and 1960s.
With Goa being chosen as the permanent venue of the India International Film Festival, West Wing has set up shop in the state in association with BR Films. "Goa is the right place; it has uninterrupted power supply, best connectivity, and a conducive atmosphere," says Vivek Rao, chairperson and CEO of West Wing Studios. "I prefer Goa over Bangalore and Hyderabad."
Naya Daur is scheduled to release in its new avatar in June 2004. Rao's firm will then turn its attention to Afsana (1951), Ek Hi Rasta (1956), Sadhana (1958), Dhool Ka Phool (1960), Kanoon (1961), Gumrah (1962), Dharmputra and Teen Deviyan (both 1965).
Rao's firm has also taken up digital film restoration, 3-D animation, and digital media archiving projects for Sony, Twentieth Century Fox (nine films), and American Television International (almost 24 films).
Rao first purchased the patented digital colour remastering technology and shifted to India (in Patna, Bihar). After he failed to secure an insurance bond in Bihar, he shifted base to Goa. "The process is very slow and it takes eight hours for one person to convert a shot of three seconds to colour," he explains.
Approximately $300,000 to $600,000 will be needed to 'correct' a three-hour film.
For Chopra, converting old black-and-white films to colour comes as welcome news, especially after the incident in Pune last year that destroyed valuable films at the archives of the Film and Television Institute of India.
Rao also plans to shoot his first Hollywood production, a low-budget film, by the end of November. "The script is being written in the US and work to choose the cast will also begin soon," he says.
For Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parikar, this is just the beginning. Since Goa has been selected as the permanent venue for an international film festival, all such ambitious projects will now shift to Goa, he says.