Hollywood director Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, which has restored a number of old films, has been dragged into the middle of a copyright battle involving the Hindi film Kalpana. Released in 1948, Kalpana was restored by Scorsese’s foundation a few years ago, and even premiered in Cannes in 2012. However, there is currently a dispute over its ownership, after its Kolkata-based negative rights holder, the Jindals, sued the Pune’s National Film Archives of India (NFAI) over the film’s copyright.
Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation had restored the film’s negative based on the recommendation of filmmaker Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, who is also the founder of the non-profit organisation Film Heritage Foundation.
The Jindals are now questioning the legality of the NFAI entering into an agreement with Scorsese’s foundation, considering that the copyright case against them is still pending.
The Jindals have written to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, stating that they had not given Uday Shankar’s family permission to release Kalpana on YouTube. Shankar’s grandchildren are looking to release the film online, as they feel that the classic film should be available to everyone, now that 60 years have passed and the copyright has expired.
In 1958, the film’s negatives had disappeared before reappearing again a few years later. This triggered a battle of ownership between the Jindals and Shankar’s family. As per the archive’s records, Uday Shankar’s family is Kalpana’s copyright owner. However, Shankar had gifted the film to a woman named Anupama Sengupta before his death, and she had sold the rights to a Kolkata-based producer, Sunil Jindal.
Sulekha Jindal, a family member of the producer, told TOI that she was the rightful owner of the film as she still has the letter that the then-curator of NFAI had written to Shankar, assuring him that the negatives of the film would only be restored for “preservation, study, and research”.
“On February 2, 2002, I had purchased the film along with the copyright. Yet, Amala Shankar had filed a case regarding ownership. After fighting for 12 years, the case was dismissed in my favour on January 28, 2014. I am the absolute owner and negative and copyright holder of the film,” she told TOI.
Scorsese’s foundation had been involved in the restoration of several films. They have also held film restoration workshops in the country since 2015, usually in February and March. The last workshop was conducted in March this year in Pune and witnessed 53 participants selected out of a total 83 applicants.
Thus far, there has been no statement from Scorsese’s side.
Feature image and photo credit: The Hollwood Reporter and Wikipedia