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Guru Dutt's Restored Pyaasa to Premier at 2015 Venice Film Festival

3 Sep 2015, Thursday

MUMBAI — The 1957 cult hit “Pyaasa” has been restored by an Indian company, Ultra Media & Entertainment, for a world premiere in the competition section at the 72nd Venice Film Festival in September.

This timeless masterpiece by Guru Dutt needed 45 experts working round the clock for over four months to restore and bring the film back to its original quality before showcasing it globally. The classic will compete between September 2 to 12 with 20 other prestigious restored films from all over the world for the coveted “Venice Classics Award” for the best restored film .

The film, starring Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman and Mala Sinha, was officially selected for this prestigious section.

Ultra Media & Entertainment are the negative rights owners of the movie. On this momentous occasion, Sushilkumar Agrawal, CEO, Ultra Media & Entertainment Private Ltd., said: “There is a huge fan following of Guru Dutt all over the world that has not been able to see this ageless magic in its original form and glory. Out of the many classics that we have restored, “Pyaasa” has a special place in our hearts. It is one of the rarest gems of Indian cinema, and we take great pride in preserving it and showcasing it globally. In fact, the film has already created substantial buzz, and we have had several distribution inquiries from various parts of the world. We are even planning a major theatrical release after its screening at the Festival.”

Ultra expects a huge demand from international distributors, sales agents, ancillary content aggregators and exhibitors for the restored version at the festival. The most challenging part after acquiring the rights was sourcing the authentic materials to complete the preservation. After much effort, Ultra found the original camera negatives of the film in an archive in India. However, a lot of the parts of the negatives were either damaged or lost.

Ultra decided to use as much as possible from the original camera negatives, and a few parts were used from 35 mm prints. A new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on the Arriscan film scanner. This in-house technology of Ultra Studio & Digital Lab (a division of Ultra Media & Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.) helped in applying a multidisciplinary, data-centric approach to the entire film’s restoration process.

Once the complete film was digitally transferred, the most challenging part of restoration began. Thousands of instances of dirt, lines, scratches, splices, warps, jitters and green patches were manually removed frame by frame under careful supervision by experienced artists. The in-house talented professionals used a specialized film content mending and defect-removal mechanism in their repair process. They carefully selected the best way to restore this priceless classic to its original quality.

The original monaural soundtrack was re-mastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm optical soundtrack. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed frame by frame again. The film will be presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

“Venice Classics” has been a crucial section of the Venice Film Festival that has been successfully premiering world-class restored classics in the festival. The prime objective of this section is to bring back old, underestimated and neglected films of the past that have been restored by film archives, cultural institutions or production companies around the world.

“Pyaasa” is the beautiful lament of Vijay (Guru Dutt), an unemployed young man who after being disowned by his brothers sets out to carve a niche for himself as a poet in society. However, his hopes are crushed when rejections come his way. A jilted lover, Vijay is despondent when he comes across Gulabo (Waheeda Rehman), who seems to be the only pillar of support in his life.

Throughout the movie, Vijay expresses shock and despair at a harsh world, blinded by avarice. Even his friends and family change colors like chameleons when it comes to fulfilling their own desires. Overcome by grief, Vijay immerses himself in inebriety.

The film was written by Abrar Alvi and cinematographed by Dadasaheb Phalke laureate V.K. Murthy. Produced and directed by Guru Dutt, it co-starred Johnny Walker,  Rehman, Mehmood, Tun Tun and others.

S.D. Burman, Sahir Ludhianvi, Mohammed Rafi, Geeta Dutt and Hemant Kumar have created evergreen songs like “Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye, “Jaane Kya Toone Kahi” and “Jaane Woh Kaise Log The.” The film marked the transformation of Dutt into a serious Bengal-inspired filmmaker.