Sunday, February 28, 2016

A NATIONAL  CINEMA   -                                                                          A NATIONAL AUDIENCE                     

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       by    P.K.Nair

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

                                                             -    3    

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)

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