The Colour Fixation

It is now too well known a fact that Bollywood suffers from a herd mentality. A hit meant every desperate producer/director must follow the same approach, the same storyline depending on the star combination one can set up. However, there have been some exceptions to the rule, notably filmmakers such as Raj Kapoor, BR Chopra (until son Ravi got the reigns), Yash Chopra (until some flops to match the contemporary trends eroded his sensibility) and Subhash Ghai to some extent (until his confidence suddenly fell off the tracks leading to one mistake after another, to the extent that he finds no major male star willing to lend an ear to his proposals).

In Bollywood, each filmmaker is so lost in his make-believe world, basking in the glory of complete ignorance, that he is unwilling to learn from someone else’s mistakes. And the new fever gripping the industry is colourisation of old classics, without stopping even for a moment to take stock of precedents. There must be a catch somewhere, which one is unable to garner because none of the films that have undergone the metamorphoses, have received positive box office response—at home or abroad. So what is the catch? Where is the money coming from, and who is providing the resources notwithstanding the fact that the cost of colourisation has been coming down over the last five years—since Akbar Asif, son of Mughal-e-Azam director K Asif, released the renovated version of the classic, first in Pakistan and then in India and the UK.

One of the important aspect with the exception of Hum Dono (that’s perhaps because there never has been or will be a greater narcissist than Dev Anand), most other coloured classics have been subjected to fresh scalpel, by those who really had nothing to do with the making of the original film but felt compelled to prune or re-edit them to a length that might be acceptable to the new-generation audience. But the new generation has hardly given any positive response through box office windows.

The technology has also gained momentum post new Mughal-e-Azam, where every shot had to be hand corrected. Every drop of colour had to be achieved through handcraft rather than machines. Sometime later, when Ravi Chopra went ahead with the coloured version of Naya Daur he went on record saying that he would release coloured versions of all the seven films that his father BR Chopra directed post-Naya Daur: Gumrah, Dhool ka Phool, Kanoon, etc. (though not necessarily in that order), and that he had learnt a great deal from the coloured Mughal-e-Azam, and did not repeat the same—where every shot had to be hand corrected. Every drop of colour had to be achieved through handcraft rather than machines. He said: “I made sure I wasn’t adding too much colour to the frames. Moreover, Mughal-e-Azam was coloured with a business point of view, whereas I have added colours to Naya Daur as a filmmaker.” Mercifully, he abandoned more forays in the matter.

Now as if these flops were not enough, Dev Anand jumped into the bandwagon (though notwithstanding the eventual box office collection, he made a packet out of selling Hum Dono Rangeen). Those involved in the colour process claimed that it was a much superior version compared to the earlier two experiments. As is believed, that while the earlier films only had around 16 to 32 colours in a frame, the technology used in Hum Dono enabled them to virtually align 65,000 shades of colours in one single frame. It certainly had a far better look but only a very limited crowd (ostensibly still living die-hard fans) made it to the theatres across the country.

And now, come August and Chetan Anand’s war classic Haqeeqat will hopefully make it to the theatres with young Dharmendra and Sanjay Khan featuring in it. Son of the legendary filmmaker, Ketan has been pursuing the idea of colouring his father’s blockbuster into a money spinner again, though time alone will determine its box office response. According to Ketan, he hasn’t tempered with the narrative and its flow but has “cut it to two hours ten minutes from the original, which was almost three hours long. You see, it enjoys a classic status, and is still regarded by many as the best war film ever made.”

Haqeeqat had been originally shot at some breathtaking ravaged locations, after the Chinese aggression that has now supposedly come much more alive in colour. To quote Ketan, who is also planning a romantic thriller with nephew Surya Reship in the lead: “I have wanted to make it in colour and the Himalaya Films banner got going for sometime but somehow it hadn’t been working out because of the court case, because of which the industry started looking at me? I guess, somewhat suspiciously. Financiers had not been coming forward to re-edit and make a version of the film in colour, as it did involve some fortune.

“I have only substantially trimmed the film by removing a lot of long shots of the army marching and bombs exploding, and concentrated on the actual drama. You see, Dad seldom worked with a complete script, and improvised a lot on location. I have also edited out a mukhda here or an antra there. I couldn’t take liberties with Madan Mohan’s compositions and Kaifi saheb’s beautiful lyrics. But I have changed the background music, redone the total sound in Dolby Digital, to bring it at par with modern times.”

Time alone will tell how encouraging is the box office response to yet another cult classic, especially in the light of what limited success other two brothers’ (Dev and Vijay) attempt at reviving interest in a classic transformed in colour. For it is also rumoured that the next in line is Guru Dutt’s Chaudvian ka Chand.

By Suresh Kohli

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.