Just some passing thoughts on what it means to be a purist when it comes to watching films, and to what extent that is even feasible living here. This topic has been sparked by the re-release of a computer-colorised Mughal-e-Azam. I posted a diatribe against colorisation a few weeks ago but discussing it with Shamya and Ajitha the other day I realised that I was in fact excited about the prospect of watching this film on the big screen - and if this is the only way to do it, well so be it.
Must clarify though that I don’t usually feel that way. My attitude has traditionally been hidebound: if you can’t watch the film as it was made and intended to be seen, don’t see it at all. I first realised how strongly I felt about the subject when Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful was released in halls in Delhi a few years ago, in dubbed form. Repeatedly, friends in Britannica exhorted me to accompany them for screenings and repeatedly I refused (my popularity ratings in the EB office were slipping at the time; I’d distributed sweets when Australia won the Mumbai Test in 2001). This wasn’t obduracy-for-show; I honestly felt no desire to watch a movie that had had its original soundtrack removed. [Note: most people in India are very scared of subtitles, and dubbing is sometimes the only way a foreign-language movie gets commercial release here.]
This is where my viewpoint diverges from that of S and A. They are more dedicated movie-watchers than I am (regular VCD renting, etc) these days and, excepting an irrational love for Adam Sandler films, they generally have good judgement. But on this subject there’s conflict: I consider it no great loss if one has to miss a "must-watch" movie on principle, there are always hundreds of other options.
Having said that, the idea of a 'principle' inevitably leads one into grey areas. How, for instance, does one reasonably define "watching a film as it was meant to be seen"? I think it was Leonard Maltin who said that watching something like Lawrence of Arabia on a small screen should be made a punishable offence. Well, I have the DVD of that film.
Anyway, like I said before, none of this applies to Mughal-e-Azam: it’s far too rare an event to be passed up. Incidentally the film is also getting the aural treatment. Like Shamya, I’m wondering what Dolby might do for Prithviraj Kapoor’s bellow...