Indian Cinema Dying


In Kagez Ke Phool, Guru Dutt comes to meet the Producers who want him to make movies their way – and refuses; the scene, the light, the camera, the emotion and the acting lifts and arrest a person to an enchanted level, not only the emotions can be felt in the throat, but also in the mind and soul, this is the power which Indian Cinema once possessed – and now lacks. Turn on any movie from last year, and sit through them, and not one image would be enchanting as it used to be, they will appear ordinary, like any other, with no purpose, or no weight, just their to act as a filler. All camera movement will be the same, from one director to the next; it does not matter who is the director, after all, in India, anyone can direct a film, actually everyone is indeed directing a film these days, and it’s another rich man’s option. Everyone is a filmmaker, but not one of them understands the power of creation.

Cinema no longer exists in this nation, only movies do – Film, as a mass entertainment. For every good work by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Jahnu Barua, Murali Nair, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Aparna Sen, Shyam Benegal and handful of others, we have hundred of marketing gimmicks countering and shelving off the movie even before they reach the mass market. The Production houses know they are riding on the minds of the audience, and constantly feeding them through various media gimmicks- to lure them and trap them to watch their trash. Another false gimmick which operates with the help of the media is promoting Indian Movies as a global entity. True, Bollywood movies are watched all over the world, but by Indians. And there are just way too many of us.

There was a time when an Indian movie won a Grand Prix at Cannes, Chetan Anand’s Neccha Nagar, Satyajit Ray too triumphed at Cannes, and showed the world that we Indians are up there in the pantheon of the art form. Even the V Shantaram classic Do Anaakhen Baraah Haath won the Golden Bear at Berlin. The 50s and 60s were definitely the best years of Indian Cinema. Indian cinema has had its fair share of glory during the 60s and 70s as the parallel movement was on the rise. And NFDC was up and helping out independent filmmakers to realize their vision. Even the audience was far literate during that time. Today, we are fed with braze of MTV style images and people are born on Orkut and one has lost his share of being literate. And people have lost the touch with their own past and history. We have a rich history and a rich culture but a decaying generation.

Cinema today stands for Storytelling; a notion largely popularized by Hollywood and diction of our industry, however, a silver lining separates Hollywood and Bollywood. Even though both industries produce a large amount of junk, a lot of movies coming out of America and sold by the Studios, sister bodies and independently, are innovative and stylistic in their usage of mise-en-scene, which allows a degree of authenticity and brings freshness to the power of an image, not only that the expressive use of mise-en-scene; as a stylistic device, but to convey the story in a new way and bring out new meaning which makes the work fresh to look at, even though the matter is rehashed, and since the dawn of American Cinema they always have had innovators and entertainers; Howard Hawk, John Ford, Nicholas Ray, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, PTA are all innovators and entertainers, which our Industry severely lacks.
Today the screenplay of a Bollywood movie is hailed with glory by the media, when it reaches the Oscar library. We tend to forget that a revolution is not started by librarians. And our celebrities are all over the film festival where our movies are screened out of competitions, but the media report the events in manner that our filmmakers and actors are winning tons of awards. The media and the industry like to hype our “Bollywood” for nothing. And a new filmmaker’s movie victory at Berlin goes unreported and unsung by the media.

One of the most common arguments from such people has been that we make movies for our people first and then others. Such people need to be jailed and shown films of ‘Chinese Fifth Generation and Sixth Generation Filmmakers’ movies as an example, that, they too make moves first for their people and if the work they do is honest and rooted with true sentiments and resonates with true human emotions of their culture, then the work itself becomes global. Till date, after reading countless interviews and books on directors, I have never heard anyone say, that they make movie first for the foreign audience and then theirs. Everyone makes movies first and primarily for their regional audience. That’s one fundamental reason the Korean wave of films in the last decade has become huge. They not only produce great movies but also make amazing entertainment piece or works. And promoting the humane of ones culture isn’t exotic.
Instead of learning from the nuances of how the Korean New Wave went on to conquer the world, our breeds of filmmakers like Sanjay Gupta & Mahesh Bhatt copy a Korean movie and present them frame by frame. The sad fact is that the Industry loves copying a screenplay or ripping off an entire movie. Almost everyone does that, it’s in vogue. We have a sever lack of creative scriptwriter, but even the ones who make it in industry are forced to write something which they never want. Each year our industry is growing, the corporate are now stepping in and producing movies, but all this has just increased the amount of mediocrity and pure thrash in the industry. Today everyone can be a filmmaker, as Godard put, but it’s the ability to create that is lost. And it’s our ability to create something which has left us out.

Even our awards have lost meaning, as there are too many of them, so at the end of the day, all actors and most movies tend up winning awards. Even the National Awards have lost their once held prestige, if Amitabh Bachchan can win a national Award for over-acting in Black, and Anupam Kher be relegated to a consolation for Maine Gandhi Ko Nahi Mara and people like Saif Ali Khan who won for Hum Tum, I’m sure one can understand what has the awards become all of a sudden. Any critical study of movies has been lost. As François Truffaut once said, “There will come a time, when we would be judged by people who never heard of F W Murnau. Truly, the time is very much here in India at least. People like Nikhat Kazmi copy-paste reviews, anyone who remembers the review of Finding Nemo and its similarities to the Roger Ebert piece will confirm the same. Filmfare magazine is more of a magazine on glitz and glamour now, and every second issue carry an interview of Sharukh Khan or has something on. We need more people like Chidanad Dasgupta and K. Ravindran less people like Rajiv Masand and others, who are not critics but television hosts whose critical understanding of the medium is as good as a Backstreet Boys song.

I have yet to see a montage opening sequence which could rival that of Do Annakeh Barah Haath in our cinema, the moment the movie begins it arrest you and never leaves you till the final credit roll, a movie made in 1949 talking about prison-reforms, with precise use of montage and long takes is un heard in our cinema today. Even back then, song and dance existed, watching the prisoners sing along with V Shantaramn “ Aey Malik Tera Bandeh Hum” transposes you to a different realm altogether, the lyrics are meaningful, the sequence important, and above all it exist because it’s supposed to, not out of purpose, and over the year’ this sense of purpose has been lost.
There is no personal stamp over any work of a director – in short, no identity. A work of art has a style and every style is based on unity, and this unity is of the individual, and this individual is missing in our Cinema today. Even the so called pseudo auteur like Sanjay Leela Bhansali leaves no mark or no stamp, huge sets and big canvases does not create a world, even John Ford canvases were huge, but he knew the relationship of an individual to his surrounding and the role of canvases, which is somewhat not translated in the works of people like Sanjay Leela Bahansali.

Once upon a time, yes it feel like a fairy tale, our scripts were written by people like KA Abbas, Abar Alvi who with the likes of master filmmakers as Raj Kapoor & Guru Dutt took Indian Cinema to new heights, today more than anything our scripts has gone down the drain, for every good film or good script which the entire Industry of audience will scream, we have thousand useless films being made and other douche work in progress. Indian Cinema is thriving today thanks to an audience who is hungry for films, however, our works have deteriorated over the years, and regional cinema and few great filmmakers are marginalized to the film festival or art house circuits.
When I freeze a close-up of a Bollywood film today, and on the side freeze another close up taken by Guru Dutt, I realize how much the industry has gone down. Anyone who will witness this shot and the reverse shot will see the difference between the power of two distinct images, one emotes without saying a word, the other does not even serve the purpose with words, image and sound both failing to lift the purpose of cinema itself, it just exist in vacuum, simply floating and moving, with no direction or purpose. Perhaps, I have a deep longing and nostalgia for a moment long gone, how unfortunate it is, that our Industry acts as if the past never existed, as if Guru Dutt, V Shanatram, Bimal Roy, Raj Kapoor, and people like Satyajit Ray, Mirnal Sen, and Ritwik Ghatak don’t exist at all.

Why is that we have not used the lesson taught by our forefathers? Everyone today screams out that he is an individual, but turn any work by a director or an actor today, he appears the same every film; overacting, bad directing and believing what he/she is doing is next to goodliness. The same could have never been said for Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Dilip Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Madhubala, Guru Dutt, Vijay Anand, Dev Anand, Chetan Anand and numerous other legends who touched our emotions and made us laugh and sing. Even comedy films have become a cheap stable of utterly, useless mindless junk, filmmakers tend to believe that we have forgotten, that titles like Padosan, Golmaal and Jaine Bhi Do Yarron existed, every genre today which is thrown at us wrapped in a new packet, has been exploited and perfected by our master filmmaker of yesteryears.

If entertainment is the key today, then why don’t we have people like Mamohan Desai, since not only his movies showed us how to entertain, but allowed the entertainment to be packaged well: he packed a punch, and his guts packed a punch, his movies as entertainment packed a punch, this punch this drive too is missing from our all out entertainers. Even Subash Ghai’s pot boiler had the elements of a great entertainer, it was masterfully constructed even though their lay deep holes in narrative, sadly over the years Mr Subhash Ghai leads the gang of people who lost the plot of making movies, even if it was meant to entertain us. And during the early 70’s and 80’s the Parallel Cinema thrived which gave the Indian audience an option- “A choice”. This choice too has been dead and gone, and Bollywood today dominates our mind and conscious like a dictator would do – feeding and making us believe that what we watching, listening, witnessing is the greatest gift given to us, nothing like that exist anywhere in the universe, and the only thing and place which reminds me of such suffocation is, North Korea.


About Author

Nitesh Rohit

Nitesh Rohit is a cinephile and writer. Nitesh has worked on various short films/documentary as an independent director, asst-director, writer, producer, editor, production manager, cover designer, visual consultant and worked on a feature film as an Assistant Art Director. He writes Video Game Criticism for Rolling Stones, India and regularly blog on cinema, and games. And currently he is working towards making his first feature film.

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