A classic never dies, especially not if a team of passionate cinephiles has anything to do about it.
On Wednesday, Mumbai Mirror had reported that Guru Dutt's 1957 film Pyaasa — starring Waheeda Rehman, Mala Sinha, and himself — had been completely restored by Mumbai-based company Ultra Media and Entertainment after the original negative had arrived to them "completely melted, with parts damaged or lost".
Their challenge was to restore the film, considered a landmark classic in the history of Indian cinema, for which a team of 45 experts from Ultra Studio & Digital Lab toiled over a period of four months. There were two lakh frames to work with, which also came with additional problems such as some that flickered and many that were at different angles. To circumvent that, they scanned both the 35 mm print as well as the original camera negative, using as much as was possible from the latter.
According to the report, once the film was digitally transferred, dirt, lines, scratches, splices, warps, jitters and green patches had to be weeded out manually from every frame using a specialised film content mending and defect removal mechanism. In the soundtrack, glitches such as clicks, thumps, and hisses were removed manually and re-mastered digitally at 24-bit.
"I was driven by a passion for cinema with no commercial exploitation in mind," Sushilkumar Agrawal, CEO of Ultra Media and Entertainment, told Mirror. Now, the results are so good that this restored version of Pyaasa is being sent to the 72nd Venice International Film Festival, which begins on September 2 in Venice, Italy. It will compete with 20 other such films from around the world for the Venice Classics Award, which is given to the best restored film. After also doing the rounds of other festivals, Ultra Media plans to release the restored version in theatres some time next year.
The team is confident that the results of what they've pulled off will put Indian restorers on the map. "After seeing the results I'll take up another film for restoration. Guru Dutt has a huge following globally. There's a lot of excitement about Pyaasa and Kagaz Ke Phool. So may be it'll be another Guru Dutt classic next."
HuffPost India got in touch with Ultra Media and received a few pictures of the original frames as well as their restored versions. Needless to say, the results are nothing short of stunning. Check them out below.
(All unrestored frames are on the left and their restored versions on the right)