Mrinal Sen's 'Khandahar' rises from the ruins at Cannes

Mrinal Sen's 'Khandahar' rises from the ruins at Cannes

'Khandahar', much like its name, was in ruins, at the National Film Archive of India at Pune. The Archive, meant to preserve and protect the nation's glorious cinema heritage, has now started a programme of restoring old classics.

'Khandahar' has been remastered by Reliance MediaWorks, which operates one of the world's largest restoration facilities.

For all those film buffs and fans of Sen who had assembled at the theatre last night, 'Khandahar' could not have come as a better classic.

When Sen himself, all of 87-years, walked somewhat unsteadily into the auditorium, a hush fell. Yet, a strong sense of excitement was palpable even in Thierry Fremaux, the Festival's key man, who introduced Sen to the audience.

The master himself was overwhelmed by a nearly packed auditorium that gave him a long standing ovation both at the start and the end of the event, and he said he was happy there was such a large following for Indian cinema.

"I had forgotten all about 'Khandahar' till this evening," Sen told the audience.
'Khandahar' is pure auteur fare that narrates the story of a city photographer (played by Naseeruddin Shah), who goes along with two of his friends to a village in ruins. There he meets a blind, dying woman and her young daughter (Shabana Azmi). The mother is waiting for a man who had promised to marry her daughter, but the young woman, the photographer and his friends all know that it will not happen.

For, the man had broken his promise and married someone else. Shah's Subash impersonates the man, and peace descends on the mother. But playing this little game, though reluctantly, the photographer falls in love with the young girl, his camera lens playing cupid for them.

The original print of 'Khandar' had scratches, dirt and image warps. The audio was impaired with various anomalies following years of deterioration. But after the rework, visuals are sharper and consistent, and the audio is clear.

Sen's Kharij got the Cannes jury prize in 1983 while 'Khandahar' was shown at the 'A Certain Regard section of the festival in 1984.

Most of Sen's film negatives, including the Kolkata trilogy - 'Interview', 'Calcutta 71' and 'Padatik' - were found to be in poor shape last year and as a result a mini-retrospective of his films at 2009 Cannes fell through.

'Cannes Classic' section, which was introduced in 2004, is also screening 12 works by various film doyens the world over, including late Jean Renoir and Alfred Hitchcock.
Another restored masterpiece to be screened at Cannes Classics will be Hitchcock's 1960 'Psycho'. Universal has partnered with France-based postproduction sound master, Audionamix, to bring the film here. The sound and images have been totally remastered to give moviegoers a 2010 experience for a 1960 film.

Audionamix turned the original mono sound into surround sound to create a full theatrical musical experience. When Hitchcock shot the shower scene, he had not envisioned any music at all -- just the action and those famous screams.
It was composer Bernard Herrmann who convinced him to add the shrieking violin, viola and cello that have since become legendary.

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