Monday, 20 October 2014

Indian Cinema: Medium of entertainment or social awareness?

By: Vinnata

As I start writing on this topic, a lot of debatable thoughts cross my mind. We all know that cinema today has gone way beyond the conventional notion of just visual story telling which was done with a motive to more of entertain masses than spread awareness and make some good money out of it. However, specifically since past two decades, one can observe that Indian cinema has been very welcoming to the concept of art films and movies that are based on various social issues.
We all will have to agree on the fact that the process of filmmaking is both an art and an industry. And to decide whether it’s just a medium of entertainment or is expected to play a role in social awareness we will have to discuss its various aspects in details.

First of all, Indian Cinema is NOT just about Bollywood.

India is a multicultural country. Hence, it includes the cinematic cultures of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. After Bollywood the most recognized zonal movie industries known to us are South Indian movies, Bengali and Marathi movies.

The first Indian film released in India was Shree pundalik a silent film in Marathi by Dadasaheb Torne on 18 May 1912 at 'Coronation Cinematograph', Mumbai. The first full-length motion picture in India was produced by Dadasaheb Phalke who is the pioneer of Indian film industry a scholar on India's languages and culture. Dadasaheb Phalke is the Father of Indian cinema. Hence, The Dadasaheb Phalke Award, for lifetime contribution to cinema, was instituted in his honour, by the Government of India in 1969, and is the most prestigious and coveted award in Indian cinema.
Directors such as Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, G. Aravindan, Aparna Sen, Shaji N. Karun and Girish Kasaravalli have made significant contributions to Parallel Cinema and won global acclaim. Other filmmakers such as Shekhar Kapur, Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta have found success overseas. The Indian government extended film delegations to foreign countries such as the United States of America and Japan while the country's Film Producers Guild sent similar missions through Europe.
A still from the movie Chitrangada (starring Rituporno Ghosh)
The following are some of the golden regional movies which truly show the potential of Indian movie makers. 

       Chitrangada (Rituporno Ghosh) 
        The Good road
        Aparajito ( Satyajit Ray)
             Internationally acclaimed and has roped in awards and nominations in
  1. Venice Film Festival
  2. Berlin International Film Festival
  3. British Film Institute Awards, London Film Festival
  4. San Francisco International Film Festival
  5. Bodil Awards (Denmark)
  6. Golden Laurel (United States)
  7. British Academy Film Awards (United Kingdom)

A true Indian film is incomplete without the navarasa of acting. The concept of rasa is fundamental to many forms of Indian art including dance, music, musical theatre, cinema and literature, the treatment, interpretation, usage and actual performance of a particular rasa differs greatly between different styles and schools of abhinaya, and the huge regional differences even within one style.
Rasa has been an important influence on the cinema of India. The Rasa method of performance is one of the fundamental features that differentiate Indian cinema from that of the Western world. In the Rasa method, empathetic "emotions are conveyed by the performer and thus felt by the audience," in contrast to the Western Stanislavski method where the actor must become "a living, breathing embodiment of a character" rather than "simply conveying emotion." The rasa method of performance is clearly apparent in Malayalam Cinema and internationally acclaimed parallel Bengali films directed by Satyajit Ray.
Bharata Muni enunciated the eight Rasas in the Nātyasāstra, an ancient work of dramatic theory, written during the period between 200 BC and 200 AD. He established the following.

Sringara rasa expression

       Shringar  (love)
       Hasya (comedy)
       Adbhut (wonder)
       Raudra  (anger)
       Veer (heroic)
       Karuna  (compassion)
       Bhayanak (horror)
       Vibhatsa  (disgust)
       Shant (peace)
       Vatsalya (parental love)
       Bhakti  (spiritual devotion)

As we know, good things come in small packages.

Indeed. Off late we have observed that there are certain unconventional movie makers emerging out despite the cut throat competition of commercial movie makers around. They certainly have made a place for them by aiming at a niche market rather than a mass market audience. They experiment with social realism, characterization of the story and aesthetic content that they wish to offer. They beautifully craft the stories with themes, very simple and intrinsic yet tangible in nature; screen plays and dialogues. Be it original, a book adaptation or a real life story, they make sure it not just touches people’s heart but should also force them to ‘think’, relate and introspect. At times it can even rejuvenate your thought process and completely change your perspective towards trivial things and issues which you always mistook for an issue but it’s actually not and can be dealt with easily. Good movies do have the power to move people and change their lifestyles for good. And to be able to do that is a great achievement for the art film makers. This gives them the satisfaction of the work they deliver and is the reward they seek for. We all must certainly give it to them for this.
Now, the makers who focus on social issues take really huge risks. If you take up a crucial and volatile issue you need be very careful with its content, direction and compilation as such movies lead to many kinds of controversies. There are cases where various groups get offended with the content, dialogues etc. and as result the movie is withheld from release. This happens because most of the people in our society have a covert mind-set. They are not willing to let go of their hypothetical beliefs and accept the reality.

Here is a list of recent films that’s a must watch if you really crave for films that offer substance.
         The Lunch Box
         Kai Po Che
         Bombay Talkies
         Mumbai meri jaan
         Gangs of Wassepur

This genre of movies is slowly being appreciated by the audience. But I think the film industry should come forward and start promoting it on a larger scale. Only keeping a ‘critique choice’ category in various award functions doesn’t suffice and value the integrity of such movies. Appreciation, if done half-heartedly has no meaning at all.
India has a house full of aspiring and talented actors and movie makers. If they are given the right kind of support, encouragement and platform then with their vision they can lead our film industry to a global stature.

Entertaining? Hell Yeah! Over-rated? Well.

Well, yes. Entertainment is surely an essential part of movies. But isn’t relevance and subject value equally essential? A society that claims, ‘smart is the new sexy’ but goes gaga over the ‘brainless’ and larger than life flicks mentioned below quite evidently prove their hypocrisy. As the new trend follows, the popular movie makers focus more on the box office records than serving the audiences with interesting plots. Few movie makers even try to justify their cheap gimmickal screen plays and baseless story lines as comedy but only if they knew, that comedy is all about witty humour, light sarcasm and rhetoric one liners. They even fail to achieve critical accolades despite earning huge monetary profits and the commercial success. Guys, wouldn’t it be great if these movie makers made some ‘food for thought’ movies using the same commercially hit actors? We know their star power and influence on general masses is massive, then why not put it into some good use?
The following movies have made businesses of worth Rs. 300-600 crores in their lifetime.  
         Krrish 3
         Dhoom Series
         Bang Bang!
         Chennai Express
         Dabangg Series
If you spare some time and give it a thought, you can realize, what wonders can this amount of money do to improve the Indian cinematic standards and make it reach global heights. Sometimes I wonder if we Indians are that easy on money. It’s only because we buy what they sell, they have reached these numbers today. Ergo, I don’t understand who we should really blame for this outrage.
But then, it would be very unjust if I put only my views on this matter. After having a talk with people around me on this matter I have come to a conclusion that there are people who actually ‘enjoy’ this genre (Yes, it has become a genre now.) of movies over art films. They say such movies relax them after a really hectic work/college schedule that they follow every day. It lightens up their mood and makes them feel less stressed out from the constant work/study pressure that they are under.
There will always be two sides to a coin. All we can ever do is argue over certain points which seem valid to us. After all, it all comes down to one consensus of ‘different people, different opinions’, which in fact is true and the only answer to the speculations caused by this topic.


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