In what could he considered the rarest of rare cinematic retrievals, the 1929 Indian classic A Throw Of Dice has been refurbished restored cleaned out and it will be screened for the first time at the Sirifort Complex auditorium in Delhi to commemorate a 100 years of cinema.
This would be the first public screening of this rare Silent film which has not been seen by a public audience in India in the last 50 years.
According to a senior member of the Minister Of Information & Broadcasting, “It wasn’t easy getting this rare print. Bollywood has no interest in the Silent Era. The stars today are completely cut off from the vintage classics. The restoration of A Throw Of Dice was of no interest to Bollywood.”
What makes this historical restoration of the Franz Osten classic even more monumental is the live orchestral background music and songs that have been added to the original silent film for this special screening.
The eminent Hindustani classical musician and Sitar player Ustad Nishat Khan has done a full original background score with music and songs for the newly-restored version A Throw Of Dice.
Speaking exclusively on this historic experience of putting melody and sound into the silent film Nishat Khan said, “It was an exhilarating challenge, and one that I took up because it was a film as beautiful and timeless as A Throw Of Dice. When the I&B ministry asked me what I’d like to do for a 100 years of cinema I grabbed the chance to give musical sound to this exquisite silent film. As you might be aware this is director Franz Osten’s take on the Mahabharat. If you have seen the film you’d know how beautifully it is put together. The frames are exquisite works of art. For me, to match up to that level of aesthetic excellence was a great challenge.”
Interestingly Ustad Nishat Khan has done the music for the same film three years ago for a special screening in the US.
Recalls the musician, “It was for a screening of A Throw Of Dice in Los Angeles where a rock-musician friend and I got together to do the entire music. But this time it’s different. I had to create a musical score that would take the audience through a 100 years of Indian cinema and music. I’ve used Indian folk music, Hindustani classical, I’ve played the Sitar...we’ve undertaken a journey through the musical heritage of the country while staying true to the film and its theme.”
And Nishat would be there with his live orchestra to play the background music for the 1 hour 10 minutes of playing-time of A Throw Of Dice on Thursday in Delhi.
“That’s how the music for special silent films were done in the 1920s. That’s the aura we will recreate on Thursday when the film is screened,” enthuses the musician.
Nishat has plans of releasing his music for A Throw Of Dice as an independent album.
But we wonder what Franz Osten would have thought of his film being given this unexpected musical.