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Ray pix given new life

Merchant Ivory Prods. is teaming with Sony Pictures Classics to rerelease eight Satyajit Ray films next year as the first prong of an effort to bring nearly all the late director’s work back into circulation in America.

“We’re starting with the most difficult part of the project first, to restore the endangered films,” said James Ivory.

“None of these films has been shown in recent years except for the occasional retrospective. The newer titles are in a better state of preservation and will be forthcoming later.”

First eight titles are the Apu Trilogy about a young boy growing up in rural India (“Pather Panchali,””Aparajito” and “The World of Apu”), “The Music Room, “”Devi,””Two Daughters,””Mahanagar” and “Charulata.”

Dan Talbot’s Lincoln Plaza Cinemas will play the revitalized prints in Manhattan next March, followed by a national rollout. Talbot was long a supporter of Ray’s work and distributed several of his films via the New Yorker Films banner.

New 35mm prints are being prepared from the original negatives, with soundtracks digitally remixed and mastered and new subtitles applied. It’s a project that’s been planned for more than 25 years by Ray’s countryman Ismail Merchant, who expressed his elation at a press luncheon announcing the long-range endeavor.

Flanking Merchant and Ivory were three of their writing collaborators at Merchant Ivory Prods.: Tama Janowitz (“Slaves of New York”), George Swift Trow (“Savages”) and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (most of the other pictures including upcoming “Remains of the Day”).

SPC co-toppers Michael Barker, Tom Bernard and Marcie Bloom, responsible for the distribution of Merchant Ivory’s “Howards End,” also attended.

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