Bangladeshi editor Rakib Rana has taken down his video of colourised scenes from Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (1955) after the emergence of an older video by an American professor.
The first video, dated May 14, is by Aniket Bera, an Assistant Research Professor at the University of Maryland in the United States. Bera’s dialogue-free video uses footage from The Criterion Collection’s 2015 restoration of the black-and-white classic.
After deleting his video, Rana has shared a collage of other colourisations he says has been done by him.
Aniket Bera used artificial intelligence-based systems to produce his video, “The AI technology works like the human brain,” he told Times of India. “It looks at millions of real videos. Even though the AI doesn’t know what the original colour was or what the original photos looked like, it can dream of these things.”
The professor described Pather Panchali, the first in the Apu trilogy, as “very close to my heart”. He told Times of India, “...this is not the way to watch the movie but only an academic experiment. A lot of US professors and researchers experiment with so many of old footage from the West.”
In the recent past, Russian YouTuber Denis Shirayev used similar technologies to colourise black-and-white footage from over a century ago, including The Lumiere brothers’ 1896 film The Arrival of a Train.
Among the critics of the colourisation of Pather Panchali was filmmaker Sandip Ray, Satyajit Ray’s son. “I am strongly against this trend,” Sandip Ray told Times of India. Subrata Mitra made his debut as a cinematographer with Pather Panchali, and shares a good deal of credit for the film’s haunting quality and unforgettable images.
“In order to be authentic, one should consult the original cinematographer to understand the tonal quality then,” Sandip Ray added. “In case of Pather Panchali, Subrata Mitra alone would know what the texture should be like in colour. But there is no way to crosscheck that. Hence, a lot of liberty is being taken.”