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B&W hits to come alive again, in colour

By E. Kumar Sharma        Print Edition: August 12, 2007

It pays to go colour. Consider this: the coloured version of 60s-era black and white Bollywood classic Mughal-e-Azam grossed over Rs 10 crore when it was released in 2004. The film not only recovered the estimated Rs 3 crore that went into digitally "colouring" it, but also returned a tidy profit.

Sensing a business opportunity here, several production and technology companies are now hopping onto this bandwagon and re-releasing colour prints of old Hindi and regional language hits. B.R. Films, B.R. Chopra's production house, is planning to release a coloured version of its 1957 hit Naya Daur soon.

A still from Hum Dono
Says C. Jagan Mohan, Business Unit Head (Media Services) at Hyderabad-based Goldstone Media, which is digitally restoring and colouring 1960s hits Satya Harishchandra (Kannada), Sri Krishna Arjuna Yudham (Telugu) and Hum Dono (Hindi): "The colourisation market in India is expected to be around Rs 150 crore over the next three years." The Kannada movie is expected to be ready by November, Hum Dono, a Dev Anand-Sadhana starrer, will be out by December this year, and the Telugu movie by March 2008.

The company, which has already acquired the rights to 15 B&W classics in Hindi and various regional languages, is talking to big production houses, both in India and abroad, to tap more such opportunities. Typically, it costs anywhere from Rs 15-35 lakh to buy the rights to these old movies.

The colourisation of black and white classics can also become a high profile niche in the Great Indian Outsourcing Story. Technical experts in this field command salaries of more than $100,000 (Rs 41 lakh ) per annum in the us; in India, they come for as little as Rs 2.5 lakh per annum.

Work on way


Taken together with other costs, it is five-to-seven times cheaper to restore and colour B&W films in India than in the US. Not surprisingly, Goldstone plans to leverage this huge cost arbitrage while selling its proposition to Hollywood film studios.

Besides B.R. Films and Goldstone, there are four or five Bollywood film production houses and another half a dozen regional film production companies that are also planning to enter this field.

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