While Cannes Film Festival is all set to celebrate 100 years of Indian Cinema, it is sadly the Bollywood flavor that happens to remain most predominant at it. The love for parallel cinema seems like a dying art with commercialism earning the better of it. Mentioning Cannes, one of the Indian films to get international acclaim, especially at the CFF was Chetan Anand’s 1946 film Neecha Nagar that won the Grand Prize at the Film Festival.
So amidst all the spectacular films, how did commercialism take over? The answer isn’t deep rooted or complex. In a world of exceeding consumerism, where profits speak volumes, the passion and zest for arts withered away gradually. While mainstream Bollywood was focusing on musicals, neo realistic section of film makers was designing fresh methods to offer a diversion from the mainstream world.
To embark on this rugged path was Bengali film maker Satyajit Ray. Borrowing money from the Bengal Government, he made his first film based on a Bengali novel. Pather Panchali, along with its finishing parts, Aparajito and Apur Sansar constructed Ray’s most celebrated work of Apu Trilogy that impressed all and sundry, including the jury at Cannes, Berlin and Venice Film Festivals.
With the rare formula of realism working, other directors mustered the courage to venture into this. Notable names of directors were Bimal Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Guru Dutt, Basu Chatterjee and so on. Sticking to recognizable themes, these directors presented on screen grandeur less and luster less stories with a distinct humane touch!
The second generation of art film makers comprised of heavy names like Shyam Benegal, Gulzar, Mahesh Bhatt, Govind Nihalani and so on. With actors like Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Pankaj Kapur, Anupam Kher, Om Puri flooding the screen space with caliber, cinema of the 80-s was a sheer treat for art films alone.
It was when Bollywood became synonymous with the term trade, the investment in parallel cinema reduced which led to the unrealistic demise of the genre altogether. The 90s began well with naive film makers like Aparna Sen coming with films 36 Chowringhee Lane, but the genre was held out from public view for a long time before the wake of this millennium. Luckily, knowledge and interest in cinema emerged when regular professions were rejected by the youth. Newer film makers began working towards building a refreshed version of art cinema, popularly referred to as independent cinema. Pioneered by heavy names like Anurag Kashyap and Onir, their stories have an unusual kind of style of retelling! With modern flavor and themes floating around, films like Black Friday is a sketched out version of real life, made with honesty and impeccable sense of background detailing.
Realistic art films that previously put the impression and message subtly, became loud with time. Luckily, some messages need a strong portrayal to be understood in the correct terms. From homosexuality to extra marital relationships, unusual love to unkind societies, everything under the sun was thankfully drawn into the purview of cinema.
Though the market oriented approach still scores over the intrinsic love quotient for the art, parallel strain of films after disappearing through most part of the 1990s, have re-emerged. Mainstream films now in their attempt to offer variety do copy the art film styles, but the freedom of work guaranteed in parallel cinema is absent from mainstream. It takes a lot to put your all on stake at the cost of mere conviction, knowing you might fail and still make cinema that is simply worthwhile. Most main stream directors lack the lion hearted courage to even attempt the same.
I have never been ashamed to conceal how art films work for me. Branded as mundane and morose by most, I still believe if we are celebrating the centenary year of Indian cinema, art films should necessarily be included for giving our film industries weightage and form. Mainstream cinema initially wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. It is essentially entertainment that audiences feed their bored appetites on. But parallel cinema in all its journalistic values, is the element that still concretizes Indian cinema and reaches out to the world audiences, the dilemma of the Indian folk!
Most popular magazines, newspapers are paying tribute to the glittering successful films. Koimoi, in our tribute to Indian cinema would like to name each of those talented films and valiant film makers who desired to think out of the box, create a difference. Surviving on a shoe string budget of films, and guaranteed no box office success, they invested in realism for their belief of it and the love of cinema. In this era of consumerist trend, Koimoi salutes the spirit of art films. There can never be a centenary celebration for Indian cinema minus art films.