[D]ance maestro Uday Shankar’s Kalpana and its leading lady Amala Shankar received a standing ovation at the 65th Cannes Film Festival. A digitally restored version of the film was screened here as part of Cannes Classics.
Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation has digitally restored the film using a combined dupe negative and a positive print preserved at the National Film Archive of India (NFAI).
Amala Shankar, the wife of late director Uday Shankar was present at the screening. ‘This is my only film,’ she recalled, ‘I was born in a small thatched roof house in Bengal and now I feel I am a citizen of the world. France holds special importance for me as this is where I met my husband for the first time when I was eleven years old.’
A recorded introduction from Martin Scorsese preceded the screening. Uday Shankar, better known internationally than at home, is considered a central figure in the history of Indian dance for fusing Indian classical forms with western techniques. In his introduction, Scorsese said that the film was brought to his attention by Pandit Ravi Shankar, the sitar maestro and the brother of Uday Shankar.
The famous Hindi author Amritlal Nagar wrote dialogues for the film while Guru Dutt worked as an assistant director on Kalpana.
Kalpana is the only film that Uday Shankar made. It was in the making for four years, but when it released it met with a big commercial failure.
The film that captures the different dance forms of India has a quality of a nightmare which is intertwined with the director’s vision for an independent India where artistic expression can flourish.