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February - March 2007


Problems of Small Cinema

by Nikhil Gajendragadkar

The Media is expanding, it is knocking all geographical boundaries .It has become a huge industry. Cinema is a part of this media and still there is a kind of cinema, which is finding it difficult to find a place in this industry. Mainstream Cinema is prevalent in all parts of the globe. Business interests are more important than the content and artistic expression here. That leaves serious cinema grasping for breath.

This is not the case of only Indian regional cinema, but many “small cinemas” are facing similar hurdles. The plight of regional and small cinema came to fore in the 37th International Film Festival of India, held in Goa in November-December 2006

It is a known fact that India is the largest film producing country in the world. The number is staggering, around 900 films every year. Films in India are made in many languages. Hindi film industry is prominent and dominent, more visible worldover. But that is not “the” or “only” Indian cinema.

Besides Mumbai, the home of Hindi cinema, there are four major film production centres, they are in the southern part of India.Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh-Telugu language films), Bangalore (Karnataka-Kannada films), Chennai (erstwhile Madras-Tamilnadu-Tamil language films) and Tiruvananthapuram, erstwhile Trivandrum-Malyalam language films). Each region produces around 150 films per year. Apart from these states there is West Bengal, which is another important film, producing state (Bengali films, centre is Kolkatta erstwhile Calcutta) and Maharashtra.Though Mumbai is the capital city of Maharashtra, the state need separate mention for its Marathi language films. Maharashtra is the birthplace of Indian cinema.

Bengali and Marathi films are known for their artistic quality and experimentation (now sporadic instances). Of course, both Cinemas have their share of Mainstream or ‘commercial’ films too. Once Bengali and Marathi films dominated Indian cinema, are now reduced to ‘regional cinema’. South Indian films do very good business in all four states. Roughly 150 films are made in each language per year. They have their own Super Stars, Star directors, and these films rake in millions of Rupees. Yet this industry is called as ‘regional’ cinema.

Their visibility is limited, that is one and main reason, which hinders growth of this cinema. One hardly sees Tamil or Malayalam film outside their respective state. South Indian films at least enjoy great following and patronage in their states but even smaller regional cinema is unlucky in this respect also. Take for example Assamees cinema. Assam is a small northeastern state. It is experiencing political turmoil, plagued by extremists’ attacks for decades together. Still there are few filmmakers who want to say something through their films. But who will watch a film in Assamee language out side Assam? Hindi films are ‘prohibited’ there as per the “decree’ of extremists. Due to ‘agitations’ and threats by extremist outfits, Cinema halls or theatres are being closed down. So they do not find place to exhibit their work even in their own state. How can this regional cinema will flourish under such circumstances?

May it be Assamee or Marathi or any other regional cinema, they are not seen out side their state is main concern of filmmakers. Availability of exhibition centres or theaters and raising finance for the project are other problems. Now competition is getting tougher even more. Hollywood films are being dubbed in to regional languages, Hindi films are flooding the limited market with hundreds of prints. Situation is serious in states other than southern states. Now multiplexes have helped Marathi cinema to a certain extent, but that is an urban scenario. Films have to be seen in rural areas to make a decent earning.

Problems faced by regional cinema in India and by small cinema of the world are not much different. Film industries in Finland and many European countries and New Zealand are ‘tiny’ compared to Hindi film industry alone, forget total Indian Film industry. Again New Zealand’s film industry can be termed as ‘big’ compared to that of film production activities of small nations.

Sarah Cantell of Finland was in Panaji for IFFI .Her film ‘Unna and Nuuk’was a part of Cinema of the World. According to her less than 10 films are made in Finland. Exhibiting them outside Finland has problem due to language barrier. People engaged in film business-whether actors, directors, or technicians-have to work with TV to support them. American or Hollywood movies eat the major chunk of revenue, which is limited because of its population of approximately 5 million people. Europe has a system of funding film production, yet it is very difficult for filmmakers there to make films, which will be talked about in the world. Because, unless they are seen who will discuss them?

New Zealand came to fore with “Piano” few years back. Now we know it, thanks to the “Lord of the Ring” trilogy. But They do not have large production houses like India or USA. Independent filmmakers have to rely upon support of the Film Commission. Very few know about their films outside Pacific region. But still, film industry of New Zealand is thriving mainly because of joint productions. American film studios come to New Zealand with big budget films. They offer good money to crew members. Naturally local filmmakers find it difficult to get a cameraman or any technician who can fit their modest budget. Though New Zealand’s films are made in English language they can’t find global audience

  Mainstream cinema may be good for commerce but small cinema is more important. Because it has different stories to tell. Stories about simple, non-glamorous human beings living in all parts of the world. Their hopes and frustration, Their struggle to survive. These are universal themes. Told in; sometimes simple sometimes complex way; yet the expression is artistic. This cinema comes from a culture and tells us something about that culture. This cinema needs to survive. For that, it needs support, from local and national governments and people also. There is an urgent need to spread awareness about ‘good’ cinema. Film culture should be nurtured through film society movement. We need ‘cinephiles’ to support small cinema. And this must happen fast before this alternative, small cinema becomes a thing of the past.

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