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Mughal memorabilia

And now, one can wear T-shirts and own playing cards and coasters with faces of the cast of "Mughal-e-Azam"



The reel Akbar... A playing card with Prithviraj Kapoor's face

THE MOST fascinating love story of Indian cinema (shot largely in black and white) has now got a colourful twist. K. Asif's magnum opus "Mughal-e-Azam" has set up a "world record" by being the first vintage film to be re-released in colour on the big screen. With its extravagant sets, costumes and haunting music, the film created history even when it was released in 1960. Asif took nine years to complete his masterpiece, which ran to packed houses for three years.

"The film hit theatres across the country this Deepavali and like before, continues to draw crowds," says Deepesh Salgia, the man behind the reel restoration, who is basically into real estate. "What's more, we are even selling merchandise related to the film to hook youngsters so that they come to the theatre to watch Mughal-e-Azam."

So now you can get into funky T-shirts with faces of Dilip Kumar and Madhubala printed on them, or go for pouches and coasters with their images or pick up a pack of playing cards with the characters from the film on them. Soon, the film will also have an overseas release with English sub-titles.

Says Deepak, "People's response to my efforts has been heartening. Hence, I am eager to take it to other countries. My special bonding with the film is because my family produced it and is the copyright owner. I always felt that K. Asif's unfulfilled dream of making a colour film should be realised someday. In fact, Dilipsaab (unforgettable as Salim) had also been expressing this desire for many years."

Tough task

But Deepak didn't realise when he undertook the project along with Chennai-based Sridhar Santhanam of Iris Interactive what he was getting into. "Most of the frames (3,00,000) were in bad shape. Lot of money, manpower, and suitable technology was required to first restore them before moving on to the colour conversion process. The software for the purpose was indigenously developed. The exquisite jewellery, grand sets and costumes made the process complex and long-winding," says Sridhar. "We touched up all the finer details in every single frame so that we didn't lose out on this yesteryear blockbuster's original appeal."

The project that took almost a year and a half to complete, also involved re-recording the music. Though the voices were the same (it's said, Lata Mangeshkar sang "Pyar kiya to darna kya" in the studio bathroom for an echoing effect), the music was recreated with classical instrumentalists from Chennai. Deepesh also ensured that the original composer of the film, the legendary Naushad was around during the makeover of the music from mixed track into Dolby.

So, all you Bollywoodwallahs planning to remake the Salim-Anarkali love story for the modern audience, please think again as the incomparable original is back in a digital avatar.

CHITRA SWAMINATHAN

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