To celebrate Amitabh Bachchan’s 80th birthday, FHF in association with PVR Cinemas will be screening 11 Bachchan films in 18 cities in a first-of-its-kind retrospective ‘Bachchan Back to the Beginning’ from 8th to 11th October. Alongside, an exhibition of rare Bachchan memorabilia curated by SMM Ausaja will be on display at PVR Juhu, Mumbai.
Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, founder of Film Heritage Foundation (FHF) and SMM Ausaja spoke with Antara Nanda Mondal, Consulting Editor, Silhouette Magazine about how the idea took shape.
Amitabh Bachchan, the icon, the phenomenon, the colossus, is coming back to the big screen with those very films which had spearheaded gamechanger trends in cinema in the 70s. For those born in the 70s and 80s, it will be a déjà vu to watch those films again in the theatres that had left us awestruck in our childhood. For the new generation, it will be an opportunity to get a feel of the phenomenon and the impact the films had created when originally screened.
To celebrate his 80th birthday, Film Heritage Foundation (FHF) in association with PVR Cinemas will screen 11 Amitabh Bachchan films from 8th to 11th October in 18 cities as part of a mega multi-city retrospective — ‘Bachchan Back to the Beginning’. Alongside, an exhibition of rare Bachchan memorabilia will be on display at PVR Juhu, Mumbai, curated by film historian and archivist SMM Ausaja, who is also a senior VP with Vistas Media Capital’s Fantico, an NFT platform that sold the iconic Shahenshah jacket a few months back.
A retrospective on such a massive scale is a first of its kind. Silhouette Magazine caught up with Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, filmmaker, producer, film archivist and restorer and founder of FHF and SMM Ausaja to ask them about how the idea took shape.
“I’d been always thinking that how do we bring back these films back on screen and that also in proper sort of way, using the original camera negatives,” Shivendra said. “And also I wanted to make sure that people talk about preservation in a major way, you know, so that popular cinema has its own level of preservation. Interestingly Finland Archive had written to me saying that then they would like to see screen Mr. Bachchan’s early films. And that really struck me if Finland can think of celebrating his 80th birthday by showing these films, and they were so well informed, they asked for Abhimaan, Mili, Deewar – early films, then I said, what are we doing?”
“Then I had this idea if I could do a 10-12 films retrospective. I went to PVR and spoke to Ajay Bijli. I said I would like to do this retrospective but not in one city.”
The objective was to not limit the retrospective to a select audience but take it to a mass scale and make it accessible to movie buffs all across the country. Explains Shivendra, “This particular retrospective is an exercise which comes from the fact that in a city like Mumbai, which is the hub for cinema, there is not a single institution where you can do a retrospective! Hmm, where can you do? If I do it at NCPA, or if I do it at Films Division, there’s only a selected kind of audience coming in and the same audience watching it but there is no cultural space of cinema. And that is what the FHF is trying to achieve. This is what struck me, if I bring back Bachchan Sahab retrospective, I would like to do it from Kanpur to Lucknow to Hyderabad to Bangalore to Kolkata. So 18 cities across India at the same time!”
It was a mammoth task to put the festival together, talking to all the producers, convincing them about how important these films were. “It wasn’t easy to bring these films back,” says Shivendra. “But I’m so so happy because Mr. Amitabh Bachchan was my hero. I remember my days in school, in boarding school, in Dehradun Doon School. Chandrachud Singh, the actor, and I were classmates, and we used to get thrown out of our classes for discussing Bachchan films. So many evenings we ran out of school to watch Bachchan’s films. I was in St. Stephen’s History Honours and I remember my love for Bachchan. Today, I’m so proud that I’m able to bring back those childhood films – Don, Deewar, Kala Patthar, back to the public. And you know, since we announced it, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing! People are saying you are showing Mili, Abhimaan, Chupke Chupke on screen?!”
The title of the retrospective ‘Bachchan Back to the Beginning’ was the idea of Teesha Cherian, director of the FHF and wife of Shivendra. Teesha had earlier given titles to Shivendra’s films CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel and Celluloid Man. The title aptly captures the essence of the retrospective which will screen 11 films of Bachchan released in the early part of his career including Kaala Patthar, Kaalia, Kabhi Kabhie, Amar Akbar Anthony, Namak Halaal, Abhimaan, Don, Satte Pe Satta, Mili, Chupke Chupke and Deewar.
“You know, and what can be more beautiful than Abhishek Bachchan telling me that in his whole life he has seen only one out of these films on the big screen! Everybody is wanting to watch these films,” says Shivendra.
Amitabh Bachchan along with his family is expected to open the retrospective and exhibition on October 8th.
Emphasises Shivendra, “It was imperative that we must get SMM Ausaja. Everybody knows Ausaja is passionate and committed. It is a wrong notion to call him someone who has Bachchan memorabilia. He has all that, we know. I will call him a Bachchan scholar. And more importantly, his passion and love for Bachchan Sahab. Whether it is him or whether it is me, we are doing it because of our commitment to heritage, commitment to the cause and our love.”
SMM Ausaja had curated exhibitions earlier on Amitabh Bachchan, to commemorate his 70th birthday (which he had organised for Jaya Bachchan) and his 75th birthday. It took Ausaja almost a month to carefully curate the exhibition, ensuring that it would not have any of the displays that he had exhibited earlier. “The exhibition is focused on Amitabh Bachchan’s rise to stardom and hence it centers around 1970s and 80s,” says Ausaja. “I have avoided the post-90s because there is easy access to information on that phase of his life. Everything is there on the internet. It is the 70s and 80s phase which is most interesting for today’s generation, to discover and appreciate.”
As is the speciality of Ausaja’s exhibitions, Bachchan: Back to the Beginning will also have some rarest of rare displays. “One of the frames is the announcement that such an actor has arrived in the industry and has been signed by a few directors. This is perhaps the first image of his that came out in the press,” says Ausaja. “This is pure research and it is extremely difficult to get such rare items. This newspaper scan records how the press announced the arrival of the actor.”
The original Shahenshah jacket with the iron arm, sourced from Fantico, will be going on display. The mix of memorabilia will include rare LP record jackets, lobby cards and working stills, none of which can be found on the internet. “There is a frame of silhouettes of the 7 Indians in Saat Hindustani. You have to figure out where is Amitabh among those 7 silhouettes. Normally you can see the actors in the posters but this one with silhouettes is very interesting,” adds Ausaja.
The show stopper is a massive 7-feet cut out artwork of the knotted shirt Bachchan from Deewar by famous artist Shrikant Dhongade, which is bound to tower over the selfie seekers! A 3D artwork on Bachchan’s films by award winning artist Shailesh Acharekar and artwork on Deewar by Mithul Biswas are among the other exhibits.
But given the fact that all these films are easily accessible on OTT and YouTube, will the new generation, the school and college goers and the youth psyched into films of today, find this interesting? The doubts were put to rest as the news about the festival went viral on social media. With everyone from celebrities to the lay movie buff sharing the posts on Twitter, Facebook and Insta, the organizers had to add 3 more screens taking the total to 25 from the initial 22. With the shows going houseful days in advance, the fever is rising by the day.
“See the response on the social media!” says Shivendra. “I don’t think a thing like this ever happened on such a large scale – in 18 cities, 25 screens! This is the largest festival ever to happen. It can’t get bigger than this. I’m very proud of the FHF. We have just plunged ourselves day and night into this.”
As a special incentive to his fans who want to enjoy all the movies, PVR has made available a Movie Pass that can be purchased online through the PVR App and Web. The pass can be redeemed across all days in any of the cinemas where the movies are running.
Ajay Bijli, Chairman & Managing Director, PVR Ltd, said in a statement, “PVR is delighted to partner with Film Heritage Foundation for ‘Bachchan Back to the Beginning’ to mark the 80th birthday of Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. We are so happy that for the first time ever we are able to stage a festival of this kind of Mr. Bachchan’s films across the country to celebrate his work at the scale that is befitting the biggest icon of Indian cinema. The 4-day festival presents an incredible opportunity for fans across India, in big cities and small towns, to watch Mr. Bachchan in his most memorable roles, not on phones or laptops, but larger than life on the big screen.”
While PVR made it possible to screen these films in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Pune, Surat, Baroda, Prayagraj, Kolhapur, Indore among others, ideally, Shivendra would have loved to do a bigger exhibition. “I’m only feeling bad that we couldn’t do a large-scale exhibition with Ausaja because we just didn’t have the money. Ideally, along with these screenings, there should have been a big exhibition of his life and works and we should celebrate his work in cinema for a far longer period. But I want to thank Siddharth Roy Kapoor. He came on board to give me money to do the exhibition. Apart from that, no sponsors,” says Shivendra.
Well, this is just the beginning! “If this succeeds, I’m planning to do a Dilip Kumar retrospective on December 11, when he turns 100,” adds Shivendra. But for now, the angry young man of Mili, Kala Patthar, Kaalia; the smouldering anti-hero of Deewar and Don; the sensitive, egoistic singer of Abhimaan; the bespectacled, hassled professor of Chupke Chupke; the sombre poet of Kabhi Kabhie; the lovable big bro of Satte Pe Satta; the spunky aide of Namak Halal and the goofy Antony Bhai of Amar Akbar Anthony is all set to spin his magic again. 😊
3D artwork on Bachchan’s films by artist Sailesh Achrekar
Check the schedules for your city on this tweet:
An incredible lineup of iconic films like Don, Chupke Chupke, Kaalia, Deewar, Abhimaan, Amar Akbar Anthony, Namak Halaal, Mili, Satte Pe Satta, Kaala Patthar and Kabhie Kabhie in 18 cities and 25 cinemas around India! https://t.co/kzcEdy3xWJ pic.twitter.com/0zcYocodlk
— Film Heritage Foundation (@FHF_Official) October 5, 2022
Some of the tweets by celebrities that went viral on social media:
— Abhishek 𝐁𝐚𝐜𝐡𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧 (@juniorbachchan) October 4, 2022
October just got really exciting. A festival to celebrate the biggest of them all. From the angry young Vijay to the quirky Anthony.. what a treat to be able to watch these films on screen again.@SrBachchan #SalimKhan @Javedakhtarjadu
— Farhan Akhtar (@FarOutAkhtar) October 1, 2022
— Boman Irani (@bomanirani) October 5, 2022
Commendable initiative of FHF and PVR, the 4 day Retrospective opens with Don. And with the exhibition curated by film historian @smmausaja. My best wishes. 8th to 11th October at PVR Juhu pic.twitter.com/7gAIYZbIqj
— Rakesh Roshan (@RakeshRoshan_N) October 1, 2022
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