Centenary Of Indian Cinema

Guru Dutt’s ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’ Was The First Cinema Scope Film In India

The concept of watching a film on Full –Length Widescreen was first developed in Hollywood by 20th Century-Fox studios. In India, till mid-’70s films were restricted to 35 mm screen i.e. center of the screen with both side edges left empty. However, filmmaker Guru Dutt saw a Hollywood film that was screened on Full Wide Screen! Naturally, the impact was mesmerizing as quality and the panoramic scenes were large and gigantic on the screen. Hence he enquired about the technology which was called the Cinema Scope!

Guru Dutt and his cinematographer V.K. Murthy came to know that the technique uses a unique lens that is placed in front of the film projector in cinema houses. The highlight of the lens is that when the normal 35 MM film is projected through the ‘unique lens’ the film automatically enlarges the images to full scale and the film is blow-up across the huge gigantic screen! The impact is tremendous as the film covers the entire screen. Besides, it also provides stereophonic sound, an important factor in Cinema Scope technology.

Bowled over the technology Guru Dutt employed the Cinema Scope technology for his film Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959). He imported Cinemascope lenses from 20th Century Fox and paid royalty but alas Kaagaz Ke Phool was a failure hence CinemaScope technology failed to click.

Few are aware that before Guru Dutt‘s Kaagaz Ke Phool, filmmaker Khwaja Ahmad Abbas had used the same technology in the Indo- Soviet film Pardesi (Hindi-Urdu/ Russia) in 1957. Interestingly Pardesi was India’s first wide-screen film in color. The Censor Certificate of the film states ‘Colour, Scope’.

However, the failure of both the films – Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) and Pardesi did not encourage filmmakers to attempt Cinema Scope technology. Nevertheless, in the early ’70s, Television was introduced in India and soon Hindi films began to be screened on the TV. Every Sunday a Hindi hit film was screened and people watched with interest! Soon started a windfall of films with the introduction of Zee TV and other private channels and this gave cine buffs more opportunity to watch films on TV. Thus began the insecurity among filmmakers to pull the cinema buffs to theatre and the best option was to pull them to cinema halls by showing larger than life films on the widescreen through Cinema Scope technology. Thus started Cinema Scope technology in a big way in the ’80s in Bollywood and it is reported since then Cinema Scope technology continues to thrive!

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