Many old hits coming back

Many old hits coming back

Digital restoration of films is now a big trend in Kannada. A Rajkumar hit from 1975 released on Friday. Producers tell Metrolife about the challenges behind the scenes

Daari Tappida Maga (The Son Who Went Astray), the Rajkumar film first released in 1975, hits screens again on Friday in a digitally restored avatar.

It features Rajkumar in a double role, one of them with negative shades and broke box office records back then.

Producer and distributor M Muniraju, a big fan of Rajkumar, has now taken the initiative to release the film in 84 theatres across the state.

The restoration of ‘Daari Tappida Maga’ took four months and cost him Rs 73 lakh.

Return of spy thriller

In 2013, Muniraju had released a restored version of Rajkumar’s spy thriller ‘Operation Diamond Racket.’ It ran for a 100 days at Kapali theatre in Bengaluru in 2013. He had bought the film from distributor S Venkatesh. “While the original was screened in 35 mm, the restored version was shown full screen, in Cinemascope. We had released it in 26 theatres across the city then,” Muniraju told ‘Metrolife’.

His interest in bringing back old blockbusters to life was triggered by what he saw when MGR’s film ‘Adimai Penn’ was re-released in theatres in Karnataka in 2013. “The fans broke out in celebration and I saw people garland MGR’s cutouts. I then wondered why Dr Rajkumar’s old films couldn’t be released again,” says Muniraju.

Muniraju went on to restore and release another Rajkumar starrer, ‘Nanobba Kalla’, in 2015. “I also intend to restore Rajkumar’s ‘Bhagyavantharu’ and release it on his birthday in April 2020,” he says.  

Naagarahaavu experience

When the blockbuster hit ‘Naagarahaavu’, directed by Puttanna Kanagal and produced by N Veeraswamy, was re-released after 45 years in 2018, the audience lapped it up.
Actor, producer and distributor V Balaji, youngest son of Veeraswamy, took two years to restore the classic that catapulted Vishnuvardhan to stardom. “The original prints were scratched and many said that it could never be used. But I was keen. The restoration was a step-by-step process, where every frame had to be painstakingly worked on to remove the scratches.”

Each frame, he says, had at least 100 scratches. The dots had to be removed and colour leakage manually corrected. “We had to also ensure that the colour scheme matched,” Balaji told Metrolife.

Music challenges

Restoring the music was another challenge altogether. “Today, you can use a keyboard to sync sounds, but earlier the music was recorded using live instruments. We had to work on the sound in such a way that it would retain the depth and feel of the original. You can’t simply do a cut-and-paste job. We remade the sound exactly the way it was originally made. We had to redub the instruments seven times over to get the best quality,” adds Balaji.

The digital version was made in Cinemascope with 7.1 DTS effects. “It took six months to digitise it. We worked non-stop for almost two years to ensure that the art of the legendary director and the actors was not disturbed,” says Balaji.

Director and producer Rajendra Singh Babu, who has also helped Muniraju restore ‘Daari Tappida Maga’, says, “It is important to preserve Kannada classics for future generations. The style of storytelling differs. Today, most films concentrate on graphics and not the story,” he says.

Jayamala, who plays a prominent role opposite Rajkumar in ‘Daari Tappida Maga’ is thrilled that the film has been restored. “The government must procure negatives of such films and preserve them,” she urges.

From black and white to colour

Producer and distributor K C N Mohan digitally converted two of Rajkumar’s films---’Satya Harishchandra’ and ‘Kasturi Nivasa’­—from black and white to colour.

The mythological Satya Harishchandra was released in 2010 and the social drama Kasturi Nivasa in 2016. “We had to manually work on each frame to restore it. It took us nothing two years for each of the films,” says Mohan. Most of the restoration is done at Prasad Labs in Chennai. 

Big hits restored since 2013

*Satya Harishchandra 

*Kasturi Nivasa

*Naagarahaavu

*Daari Tappida Maga

*Nanobba Kalla

*Operation Diamond Racket

*Raja Nanna Raja

In the pipeline: ‘Premaloka’ and ‘Naa Ninna Mareyalaare’

Balaji of Eshwari Films says the cost of restoration and release of the Vishnuvardhan blockbuster ‘Naagarahaavu’ was Rs 2 crore. “The money was spent on perfecting even the smallest of details such as the skin tone and colour,” says Balaji.  

He hopes to restore more hits such as ‘Prema Loka’ and ‘Naa Ninna Mareyalare,’ made under his family banner. “The restoration is not only expensive but also tedious. The negatives have to be chemically treated before we start work. The only thing that’s holding me back is the time it calls for,” says Balaji.

However, he feels the effort is worth it. “This generation gets to see how films were made back in those days. The emotions and acting styles were entirely different from what we see today,” he says. The digitally restored ‘Naagarahaavu’ ran to packed houses and Balaji says he was able to recover his money.

Balaji of Eshwari Films says the cost of restoration and release of the Vishnuvardhan blockbuster ‘Naagarahaavu’ was Rs 2 crore. “The money was spent on perfecting even the smallest of details such as the skin tone and colour,” says Balaji.  

He hopes to restore more hits such as ‘Prema Loka’ and ‘Naa Ninna Mareyalare,’ made under his family banner. “The restoration is not only expensive but also tedious. The negatives have to be chemically treated before we start work. The only thing that’s holding me back is the time it calls for,” says Balaji.

However, he feels the effort is worth it. “This generation gets to see how films were made back in those days. The emotions and acting styles were entirely different from what we see today,” he says. The digitally restored ‘Naagarahaavu’ ran to packed houses and Balaji says he was able to recover his money.