Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, filmmaker, film archivist and the founder of the Film Heritage Foundation (FHF), is on a mission. He and FHF have sworn to revive Indian cinema’s lost sheen. Over the past decade or so, FHF has been feverishly rescuing films, preserving them, restoring and screening them.
On the occasion of Amitabh Bachchan’s 80th birthday last year, social media was crammed with videos of fans swinging to khaike paan banaraswala or whistling at yeh chaabi apne jeb mein rakh le Peter. All courtesy FHF’s festival of Bachchan’s 70s films, entitled Bachchan: Back to the Beginning, where selection of Bachchan blockbusters were screened on PVR screens across the country. A similar euphoria was witnessed with Hero of Heroes, their Dilip Kumar film festival. With the nation celebrating the birth centenary of India’s original Peter Pan, FHF unveiled Forever Young, a curated festival of Dev Anand films.
Shivendra Singh Dungarpur |
Excerpts from the interview:
The response to the Dev Anand screenings was huge. Were you expecting this kind of euphoria?
After the huge success of Bachchan: Back to the Beginning and then, of course, Dilip Kumar: Hero of Heroes, I knew we would definitely have an audience for a Dev Anand festival. I think I was sure that if we are able to get films like Johny Mera Naam, Guide, Jewel Thief, and CID (I was expecting more)...I was confident that there would be an audience for these films.
These films are made many decades ago. What do you think still makes these films tick?
I think the immediate reaction that we saw in the first day, told us that there is no stopping this. And, if you have to really look at it in terms of the extent, this is the largest festival we’ve done. I think this would be the largest ever festival. We’ve just gone from strength to strength. Of course, the Bachchan festival had the hysteria and the dancing and all that, but during the Dev Anand screenings, people were singing and reciting dialogues. The amount of young people who called me or reached out through our social media, saying how much they’ve enjoyed these films, is unbelievable. There is a huge audience for Johny Mera Naam — it’s one of my favourite films. It feels utterly contemporary in the way it’s styled and paced. And then there’s of course, Guide. Goldie Anand’s films are so contemporary!
How do the Dev Anand screenings compare to the Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan film festivals FHF conducted earlier?
Bachchan: Back to the Beginning was released across 20 cities. Then we went to almost 30 cities for Dilip Kumar: Hero of Heroes. But this time with Dev Saab’s films we went even beyond 40 cities — and what was remarkable was that in places like Coimbatore, Chennai, Cochin, many of these Hindi films were never screened before. Well, Jewel Thief maybe, because Vyjayanthi Mala was acting in the film. But not really any of these other films.
What is the state of preservation on Dev Anand’s films now? Are there any other initiatives by FHF to preserve his legacy on his centenary year?
You know, ironically, early this year we found the reels for one of Dev Saab’s films called Baat Ek Raat Ki from 1962. I think it was destiny. We got a tip off that the negatives were being sold to a scrap dealer for silver extraction. I was asked to come to Bandra station. How we managed to rescue that film is not too different from one of Dev Saab’s thrillers like CID or Baazi. So there is already the work towards preserving his legacy, preserving his heritage. We’ve been in talks with Goldie Saab’s son, Vaibhav Anand, or and the Dev Anand family. We would really help to preserve their work and the NFDC-NFAI is working towards restoration of their films. My only challenge is that we have to find the original negative. There is no point restoring just from a print because because the quality of image, the quality of the colours would be far better. So those challenges are there, but the work has all begun.
Jewel Thief |
What was the role of Dev Anand’s family in all this?
It took us a year of convincing the Dev Anand family. Devina Anand, the daughter, finally decided to be part of the festival. Permissions were granted after that. I had at many times given up, but one year of persistence does have its rewards. I invited Vaibhav Anand, who had lost his mother just a few weeks prior. Dev Saab’s sister was also there. Chetan Anand’s family was present and so were Mink and Jackie Shroff, both Dev Saab’s discoveries. What made it special was the opening because Waheeda Rahman, who is now the Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner, came to inaugurate the festival with Johny Mera Naam and Guide.
And one of the most beautiful things happened after Waheedaji finished seeing Guide. I spoke to her the next day. We were on the phone and she said ‘I am seeing Guide after almost 40 years. I didn’t realise it at the time, but now I know it that Dev and Goldie both have made a great film. Dev was a good actor’.
Johny Mera Naam |
Devina Anand, who said that she had hardly watched the film earlier but she saw it now and wondered, what a good actor her father was! It was such a touching and a human moment for me that both of them, Devina and Kashvi, who is Waheedaji’s daughter, sent me a thank you note saying that that it was surreal for her to watch Guide with her mother. And I think those are the memories I want to keep. But one of the most beautiful things for me to happen was when Waheedaji received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award.
We also would like to thank NFDC-NFAI for providing the content for these films. We need to do more such collaborations. By combining our strengths, we can be a powerful force working for the future of Indian cinema. Classic Cinema is here to stay alongside contemporary films. There’s room for all. And this is what the film had foundation has been trying to do in such a major way. We are looking forward to do more festivals, more restorations, more preservations. There is a lot to do.