Pune: Russia's love for Indian cinema became evident when Raj Kapoor's Mera Naam Joker became a big hit in the country. But Russia's first bond with Indian cinema was formed way back 1957, when Russian and Indian producers, came together to make a great piece of art.
Pardesi, starring stalwarts like Nargis, Prithviraj Chauhan and Russian actor Oleg Streezhnov, is the first ever Indo-Russian co-production.
Made way back in 1957 in Russian and Hindi, the film was lost in the history of Indian cinema, as its Hindi version was not preserved.
But now 50 years later, the film will finally be screened at Pune's National Film Archive of India, thanks to the Russian Cultural Center that had preserved the film's Russian version.
Says Russian Cultural Center, Mumbai's Vice-Consul, Andrey Nazarkin, "You see the title of the film is history itself. The story is about a Russian merchant, who happens to come to India. It was a legendary story and when it was screened, it became even better. It was a colored film, in an era like the 50s when we mostly saw black and white pictures in Soviet Union. It was one of the samples of new movies."
Though the film had a strong cast, it did not do too well at the Indian box-office. This was attributed mostly to the criticism it received for it's portrayal of the Indian ethos and an unusual love story.
When Pardesi released in India in 1957, the love story it portrayed between a Russian man and a Maharashtrian woman was termed as unacceptable by critics.
However, producers tried hard to lure the audiences and they even introduced a competition where the viewer who watched the film in a cinema hall would be sent on a free trip to Moscow.
Says Director of the National Film Archive of India, Pune, K Sasidharan, "To my mind, it was a reaction from some conservative section of people in this part of country. Looking at the film, today, those allegations are baseless."
Perhaps the best way to judge Pardesi in today's context is to watch it. The National Film Archive of India, in Pune will hold a special screening of the film this weekend.
(With inputs from Shveta Puranik in Mumbai)