Quantity not Quality
India has been one of the most prolific film making countries of the world . With an annual out put of over 800 feature films in fourteen languages and an equal number of Shorts , we have been on the top in terms of numbers for the last three decades . Whether the same can be said of quality is anyone’s guess . . But why worry , as long the films are meant for the local indigenous audience .and of late our own people living abroad . It’s often said every nation gets the films they deserve . If the majority of our films are of a certain quality, then as viewers we should all be responsible for it . The filmmakers invariably give what they think our audiences would like to see , not necessarily what they ( the filmmaker ) would want them to see . The latter breed is in a hopeless minority both by way of creators and viewers . And herein lies our dilemma. .
A Matter of Pride
Whatever may be the quality of our films , India is perhaps the only nation which has not allowed the imported films to dominate its Screen . This is something which we can be rightly proud of , especially in these days of globalisation when American Cinema has virtually dominated the World Screen . The first two decades of Cinema in the country saw the imported films , mostly from Europe occupying the bulk of our screen . The figures at the fag end of the Silent era were 80% imported and only the balance 20% indigenous . The beginning of the Talkies , made it possible to see , hear and enjoy films in one’s own language , This brought in a dramatic change with the imported films ( by this time mainly American ) getting pushed out and Cinema in various Indian languages taking over . Slowly the ratio got reversed , It became 80 Indian and 20 Foreign and since then Indian Cinema has never looked back . It continues to have its hypnotic hold on the Indian masses both within and outside the country . This is despite the heavy onslaught of the dominant cinema of the West . They tried to dub their films in Hindi and other Indian languages to penetrate the Indian market Barring exceptions like a JURASIK PARK or a TITANIC , they could not make much of a breakthrough . But with costs soaring sky high and diminishing returns and a crumbling economy , can we hold on for long ? This should be a matter of concern for all of us .
Ray of Hope
The maximum returns for a popular Bombay film , commonly referred to as Bollywood , nowadays come from abroad , mostly from the NRIs settled in UK , North America and the Middle East The Hindi film producers are quite conscious of this and they take extra care to satisfy the needs of both the audiences . This is evident from the plot outline and treatment of most of the popular Hindi films of recent times . One or two main characters of the film will be staying abroad and he or she will be coming to the country , possibly to select a suitable mate or fulfil an old commitment , and then they both go abroad , The physical space shifts from within the country and outside ( not only for song picturisations ) but even for dramatic build-ups .So it’s a question of moving around freely as you wish , whether within the country or outside . National barriers are broken . The world is definitely becoming smaller and the whole world “ a family “ .Possibly a reinstatement of our “ Vassudeva Kudumbham … “ philosophy , The recent
exhaltation of HEY RAM in couple of major film festivals and the earlier accolades to Mani Rathnam’s films and Ram Gopal Varma’s SAYA in the International Festival circuit are clear indications of the long overdue post – Sholay recognition of the mainstream Indian Cinema The gap between the big and small cinema is getting reduced . It’s all for good in a way .
Pitfalls to guard against
As costs are becoming increasingly prohibitive for the average theatrical filmmaker , whether in Bollywood or elsewhere , the only way one can cope up with the present economic situation is to target your product to a world audience , whether Indian or the other . This can be achieved without losing one’s identity . if we extricate ourselves from our pre – conceived notions of what constitutes Entertainment and what the public would like to see . In a fast changing world you cannot take your viewers and listeners for granted . Film makers should realise they are not addressing to the same audience every time they make a new film . You can’t repeat the same old tricks and get away with it . .You have to make a distinction between the requirements of the big and small screen as the audiences are not necessarily the same . In fact even within the media the viewers differ , tastes differ , preferences differ . So let us not club them together as a faceless Mass . Let us treat them as individuals , with individual minds and thinking capacity and a certain amount of dignity .
Live and let live .
Let us not assume everyone wants to see the same kind of Cinema . The market forces would naturally dictate the filmmaker to cater to the majority for his very survival . But we have to create the necessary climate for the Other Cinema also to survive . the one which does not cater to the majority . For a healthy society , all shades of views and
expression .should be allowed to flow . Just because someone doesn’t want to talk to the majority but just share the views with a minority who would like to listen to him should he be prevented from doing so . ? It would be a sad day for the Society if all its resources are earmarked only for the majority and don’t care what happens to the minority .
11th Oct 2000
( From NFAI- collection)
( From NFAI- collection)