First off is Tapan Sinha's Khudito Pashan (Hungry Stones). I don't believe there is any other available release of this film. An adaptation of a ghost story by Tagore, this one is one of the more battered looking releases on this set. The source is distractingly soft, bears burned-in subtitles that go out of sync in instances and has a significant degree of print damage (although scratches are mainly of a minor variety, nothing eye-gouging here). Also problematic is the weird aspect ratio. The film is encoded for the now defacto16:9 widescreen televisions with hard-coded vertical black borders on the sides. The aspect ratio for the actual film is a VERY non-standard 1.53:1 (737x480). It is possible that it's vertically cropped from a 4:3 ratio, but in general there are no obvious instances of such cropping, so I'm not sure what to make of it. On the other hand, the contrasts are towards the darker side, which is in tone with the sprit of the film, which is, apart from a clumsy last third, an atmosphere-drenched haunting tale and a classic that deserves viewing.
Next up are screen grabs from Satyajit Ray's Teen Kanya (3 Women). I'll take in order the first and second episodes only, since I didn't watch Samapti (Ray should have paced this one better, since it completely overshoots the appropriate time limit for the last in a set of 3 episodes).
Postmaster surprised me by how stable and damage free the image was for a film that old. Blacks are not Criterion deep but the contrast is impressively robust. There's a slight amount of strobing during pans, generally tolerable. The image is still on the soft side and the lack of strong grain indicates either a carefully stored video master or over-enthusiastically applied noise reduction. But this is still the best I have seen this film. Subtitles are optional.
Monihara is the "lost" episode of Teen Kanya, since in many instances of telecast or public screening, they eschew this one to cut the running time, making a mockery of the title. This is a neat little story of greed. The climax is cheesy and predictable for anyone that has read a few ghost stories. Nevertheless, I like this episode, especially for the leading lady's performance. It looks good, too, a tad more worn and dull than Postmaster but still blows away any previous video release.
Char Adhyay, a 1997 film from the decidedly arty Kumar Shahani. I'll probably do a review sometime soon, but check the video quality of this previously unavailable-for-love-or-money film. The print looks clean and relatively scratch-free and colors are good if a little faded. My major issue is with the ghosting that occurs during camera pans (fair number of them in the opening moments of the film), which is sometimes quite severe (the screenshot of the man walking in front of the painting is an indication). But like with the film, I was overall happy with the DVD too, considering that the chances of getting any better are nil.
Saved the best of what I've seen for last. Ghare Bhaire, I cannot believe how good this film looks here. You can take every previous video release of this film and burn them all. Colors are vivid without appearing blown, the careful lighting schemes are nicely reproduced and a thin layer of grain gives a lovely finish. This single disc alone is worth the price of the set!
So ya, spread the word. Anyone who is interested in this sort of film should snap up this set ASAP. And send in your e-mails/letters to NFDC, asking them to get off their lazy butts and release more of their catalog.