In a recent press meet at the release of a new Bollywood online portal Amitabh Bachchan made a statement that went largely unnoticed but was certainly worth a thought. The veteran actor, said, “The level of education is not equal or universal. That’s one of the tragedies of the country…. An educated society will be able to decipher the difference between good and bad and hopefully that will reflect in the kind of writing that our cinema has.”
Bad films… Who is to blame, the audience, or the moviemaker?
Yes, it is a fact that “off-beat” films like “A Wednesday” or “Raincoat” cannot even dream of being a blockbuster hit . . . But is the Indian audience to be blamed for this?
They may not be blockbusters at the box office, but quality movies have certainly been appreciated by the average moviegoer. So is the flaw really with the general audience who is continuously presented with films which are more less the same old wine, sometimes in a new bottle or is the script writer and director who are more interested in their money-making prospects to be blamed?
It is quite easy for anyone to understand that it is this Bollywood formula that restricts the entry of “New Age” cinema into the Indian scene. When money is all that matters, the words ‘experimental’ and ‘new’ are frowned upon by the filmmaker in general.
Indian cinema is a good business for any clever person to invest in. A good form of easily doubling the money you invest with some good looking actors, a hero, a “hot” and “bold” actress, an item song, sex scenes, slap-stick comedy, a villain, lots of glitter, glamour, dance and finally! A loose story line just to convince the audience that the director doesn’t think they are idiots. The investor gets his returns, the actors their money, the director his name . . . And everybody parts happily.
Though this formula has been tried and tested and drained by time, it still has its charm among the masses when they are served with this in the right proportion. But yes, the times are a-changing, films which have their storyline inspired from the time of “Sholay” and beyond certainly make the audience weary now. In response, all that the film makers could come up with was bolder, glamorous cinema.
When their charm stopped working they even took scripts from the south, and made films about the south. Still, the safe and secure formula remained.
Before my words go ahead and completely slam the film industry I should give them their share of credit too. It should be mentioned that Bollywood despite its obvious shallowness has produced some awesome scripts. Of these, some have gone to film festivals, some have not seen the light of the day and some have, interestingly done well.
“Dhobi Ghat”, “Taare Zameen Par”, “Dev-D”. . Etc are good examples. So what makes them throw out the conventional barricades, come forward and be bold enough to pursue such films? The treatment! Writing a script which will make you cry, connect or realize is one thing while actually portraying that in the big screen visually with the accompaniment of many things including music, and technology is another. This is when you realize that for a film to be successful a good script is not the only factor, other things like direction, editing, cinematography and other technicalities also play an important role. In short, it is a team work! And it is here that the quality factor comes into play.
Regional movies again are known for their better scripts and movies which are different, but unfortunately it gets buried in the regional biases and financial constraints failing to get noticed by anyone outside the state. Anoop Ravindran, the associate director of the Malayalam movie Trivandrum Lodge directed by V.K Prakash says that today’s audience is much more educated.
“Today’s generation can analyze a film scene by scene and shot by shot . . . So I personally do not think that our audience is uneducated, at least when it comes to films. The problem is that new directors when they hear of a new character or story line look for references of such things in other films. This happens everywhere, in every industry and the practice in itself is bad. This just ends with them partly reproducing some one’s work. It widely curbs your creativity, limiting the possibility of bringing something new to life. . . That apart, it is a well known fact that a film is a team effort, though of late because of the absence of fresh scripts more and more emphasis has been placed on scripts,” he says.
The “Bold” move
We have also witnessed the success of films like ‘Shaitan’ and ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ which have done exceptionally well in the box office despite coming from a so-called ‘New Age’ director. So what happened here? The audience became educated all of a sudden? Or was it the film maker’s creativity that did the charm? A new and bold trend is emerging now. At least some of the director’s are willing to experiment. There are more advocates of experimental cinema.
The technology has made things more democratic, and new comers are here to make a change. To give life to their stories.
The Conservative’s fear
While rejoicing the arrival of a different genre of films in the industry, I suddenly remember that even before all the brouhaha there was once a Satyajit Ray, and then, there was Indian cinema, which remained pretty untouched by what the veteran did. So when my colleague remarked that, “I think only some parts of India have the artistic sensibility to understand and produce good films,” I couldn’t help but deliberate on it.
Good films come and some of them stay in our minds, but what we don’t see is the change being adopted. The general apprehension seems to be to accept changes. Here I am afraid that our cinema is caught up in a Conservative’s fear.