First things first: I am going to include only Indian films on the list – no Hollywood, no World Cinema. In India, there are scores of films that are not to be found anywhere now. It takes a Martin Scorsese to restore a gem of an Indian lost film : Kalpana (his Film Foundation is doing an excellent job of restoring World Cinema – do visit them here); we were never much into restoration or archiving anyways. However, I’ve picked some gems that are almost forgotten, very seldom talked about, apart from a few mentions on Blogosphere, here and there. Let’s begin:
1. Raakh (1989)
Aamir Khan’s debut as a lead actor (though it released later than Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, it was shot much earlier), the film represented many firsts – Aamir’s first actioner, Santosh Sivan’s debut as a cinematographer, Aditya Bhattacharya’s (son of yesteryear director Basu Bhattacharya. He’d dabbled with acting six years prior, in Shyam Benegal’s Mandi, playing Smita Patil’s rebellious young lover) maiden directorial venture. Aamir showed clear signs of what was to resurface 12 years later, but the one who took the cake was Pankaj Kapur. In a National Award (Best Supporting Actor) winning performance as the neurotic cynical cop who set out on a self-destructive path, the immensely talented actor went on a rampage (literally) before the camera. Incidentally, the film won Aamir his first National Award too. Raakh is not available anywhere on DVD or otherwise, except a VHS transfer downloadable on Torrent sites. In early 2009, there was a lot of media hullabaloo over Aamir releasing the film on DVD along with a theatrical release, in collaboration with Palador. The project hasn’t been heard of ever since. The good news is, Aditya Bhattacharya is working on a 20th Anniversary DVD release – he’s already unveiled a Redux version (remember Apocalypse Now Redux?)
2. English, August (1995)
Dev Benegal (Road, Movie) broke into the film making scene with his adaptation of the eponymous novel by Upamanyu Chatterjee (brilliant author; one of the most well known and talented Indian writers who wrote in English, in an age devoid of Chetan Bhagats). The film marked the debut of another extremely gifted artist: Rahul Bose. It spoke of an Indian Administrative Service official and his years in an extremely hot and humid fictional village called Madna. English, August is not available on DVD or otherwise; Benegal mentions in his blog that the negatives have been damaged because of poor storage at Prasad Labs at Chennai.
To be continued…