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February - March 2008


Serious Cinema in Peril?

by Nikhil Gajendragadkar

Is Indian film industry moving away from Serious, meaningful cinema? After listening to noted film maker Adoor Gopalkrishnan, one would think so. His film, “Naalu Penungal”(Four Women) was part of IFFI –07 in the section, Indian Panorama. Making a serious, meaningful film in India is getting difficult with every passing day, opines Gopalkrishnan . Any film needs an audience and to reach up to your desired audience a filmmaker needs finance. Film making is indeed an expensive art form.

Film fraternity in India had to put a lot of pressure on the government and Directorate of Film Festivals to include Indian films in the festival. At last the section Indian Panorama was created, said Gopalkrishnan. Incidentally this section opened with his film. Gopalkrishnan also told at length how Doordarshan behaves.

Few years ago ‘Doordarshan ‘started telecast of films which were selected for Panorama. The royalty, though paltry, gave some support, some respite to a filmmaker who has ventured in to the realm of serious cinema. Then suddenly Doordarshan changed its policy and stopped airing these films. With this, many good films lost nationwide audience and financial support. Now only national award winning films are chosen for national telecast. Sum of royalty also has decreased. There are hundreds of thousands of film lovers who want to watch a good film. All cities and towns don’t have a film club or film society, so Doordarshan was their only hope. Now they are also deprived of that chance.

In the name of generating funds and under the garb of competition, Doordarshan also has joined the bandwagon and is content with showing so called ‘popular or commercial films (which are poor in content, as we all know). Loud music, and visuals of hip swinging are dished out as ‘entertainment’.

If at all a good film is selected, a filmmaker has to submit to conditions of Doordarshan. He/she has to do much running around and spend a large sum to submit the film .The filmmaker does all this, because he/she is happy that the film will be seen

by a larger audience. After undergoing traumatic experience, the filmmaker must wait to get the ‘royalty’ from Babus sitting in New Delhi.

It is like telling the creative people in the country, that if you want to make a meaningful film, you will be punished. Gopalkrishnan ‘s scathing words must reach the people who pose as policymakers. Doordarshan is still a public enterprise. Money spent on it is people’s money. Funds must be used to provide not only clean entertainment but some thought provoking stuff too.

Will this ever happen? we do not know. Present scenario is so depressing that the hope that serious cinema will survive is diminishing.

A platform like International Film Festival must dwell on topics like this. Here we celebrate cinema. Not only commercial, popular cinema, but an art form which takes a look at human life, its condition ,more seriously.

In the 38th IFFI ,There was a special section devoted to “Navya Movement” .A literary movement basically started in Karnataka and later spread to other states also. It was not restricted to literature alone. This movement encompassed Theater and Films as well. Three films were screened in this retrospective section. “Samskara”, “Ghatashraddha” and Chommana Dudi”. All had participated in many festivals abroad and had won accolades. These films, adhering to the philosophy of Navya Movement, critcise the evils in our social system. They were much talked about films in their time. But in the festival very few attended their screenings. Still it was a good attempt to bring a different kind of cinema in the focus. Such films need larger viewership, naturally They need to be shown in theaters all over the country. But the film industry is obsessed with Munnabhais. That makes future of serious cinema in India bleak.

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