But in his great experiment, the legendary Hollywood filmmaker only repeated what legendary filmmaker V Shantaram had accomplished in 1958 with his "Do Aankhen Baarah Haath", says a new book.
"Very few people know that thirty-six years prior to this, Rajkamal (a film studio founded by Shantaram) had taken a similar decision in Hindi cinema. He made Do Aankhen Baarah Haath', a story of prison reform experiment, deliberately in black and white. It was released in India in 1957 and worldwide in 1958, and became the most famous film made by Rajkamal Studios," according to the book "Khwaabon Ka Safar with Mahesh Bhatt".
The film's story was based on a real experiment.
"Such an experiment was actually undertaken in Aundh, near Satar in Maharashtra, where prisoners were kept in open prison on trial basis. When Anna Saheb (V Shantaram) heard this story, he decided to make it into a film. He asked noted Marathi writer G D Madgulkar to start writing the script," according to Kiran Sahntaram, son of V Shantaram.
The Maharashtra-born Shantaram Rajaram Vankudre or V Shantaram, fondly known as Anna Saheb, had already made "Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje" in 1955, the National Award-winning film which was also one of the earlier technicolour films made in India.
The technique for making colour films was adopted in Hollywood much earlier with the 1939 release of "The Wizard of Oz".
"So when the final narration took place, the studio's technicians asked Anna Saheb as to why he wanted to make Do Aankhen Baarah Haath' in black and white. And Anna Saheb explained that the beauty of the subject could only come in black and white, and not in colour," he adds.
The book records that Shantaram was so passionate about cinema that he even took up an actor's role, that of the main jailor's in the film and narrowly escaped losing his eyesight in a scene involving bull fight.
But Shantaram's efforts and visionary approach paid off as "Do Aankhe Baarah Haath" emerged a super hit at the box office. The film got the National Award for the Best Feature Film as well as the Best Feature Film in Hindi.
"That film won a Silver Medal at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1958. It was the same year when the Golden Bear Award had gone to Ingmar Bergman and the Silver Bear (Extraordinary Prize by the Jury) was given to V Shantaram for 'Do Aankhen Baarah Haath'. Since then no Hindi film has ever received an award at the Berlin Film Festival, according to film historian Sudhir Nandgaonkar.
Kiran Shantaram says, "While the film was running in the cinema halls, the prayer song in it Aye Maalik Tere Bande Hum', was being played as a prayer in the schools of Pakistan. People wrote letters to Anna Saheb from across the border saying that the prayer that he had created was great and was being sung in Pakistan schools.
Shantaram was conferred with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India's highest honour in the field of cinema, in 1985. He passed away in 1990 at the age of 89 years, of which 72 years were dedicated to cinema.
The Rupa Publications' 'Khwaabon Ka Safar (Journey of Dreams) With Mahesh Bhatt', based on the eponymous popular television show, traces the origins of the studio system in Indian cinema. Replete with anecdotes and scholarly accounts, the book takes the readers through stories of 13 such film studios which have left an imprint on the country's cinema and filmmaking.
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