MK Raghavendra | May 10
Exquisitely crafted in terms of ambience but we wish it had been more coherent. The problem, I believe is that it mixes genres arbitrarily – without being aware of it. Consider first the primary story meant to be like something out of a Panchatantra tale, with its cautionary moral about human greed. A story with a moral (i.e. a fable) does not conceal information because its primary aim is to deliver its message unhindered. Also, the message is rendered through the principal character being subject to experiences, usually salutary…
… As already acknowledged Tumbbad is visually rich but as theorists (Frederic Jameson) have argued, visual richness is worth little if it is not bolstered by narrative, since only narration gives meaning to the cinematic image.
Dalits and Victimhood in Indian Film
MK Raghavendra | Apr 24
When we come to Indian cinema we find victimhood treated differently and this is true of the portrayal of Dalits as well. The tendency is to show the Dalit victim as belonging to a monolithic category transacting only with those outside. A common issue here is that of the forbidden inter-caste romance in which one of the lovers is Dalit. There are a series of films which work by this formula which, when analysed, yields the sense that ‘Dalithood’ gains significance only in relation to caste society. One does not, for instance, find romances between two Dalits from different strata which might also have been opposed. Films about Dalits appear to proceed from social preconceptions rather than unbiased observation and this is apparently because Indian cinema has not favoured mimesis.
Mimesis is a critical and philosophical term pertinent to the arts that carries a wide range of meanings – including imitation, representation, mimicry of life, and the presentation of the self. To paraphrase the general understanding of the notion, art was considered to be an imitation of the world that also allowed for individual expression, i.e.: the subjectivity of the creator of the work of art was accorded a due place. Cinema, because it begins as an imprint of reality is ideally placed to pursue mimesis…
…It is difficult to recollect an Indian film in which diversity within Dalit communities is acknowledged, so monolithic are they seen to be because of the gaze being consistently from the top. Such essentialization – although it may be the product of a ‘liberal’ outlook – is consistent with Brahminism itself, which proceeded by essentializing the jatis as varna categories and placing them within a hierarchy…
… Mimesis becomes a necessary way of portraying social conditions since it relies on observation and experience rather than apriori ‘truths’.
Understanding the Habits and Preferences of Bengali Cinema Audiences
Arnab K Middya | June 25
The cinema market of Kolkata/West Bengal has primarily been dominated by Bengali cinema since the last 5 years. The market leader is Venkatesh Films, a company with huge production & distribution networks. The company produces both critically acclaimed art as well as blockbuster commercial films. Additionally, it produces fiction and non-fiction reality shows for Bengali GEC channels such as Star Jalsha, Rupashi Bangla and Mahuaa Bangla; has a very strong distribution chain with total control of over 200 theatres of WB (films such as Raavan and 3 Idiots were released on WB. through their network); and has created superstars in the cinema of Bengali who involve themselves in promoting the company’s films all through the year.
Almost all the major stars, directors, music directors, editors, and art directors, in Kolkata, are discoveries of Venkatesh Films. A majority of them are, naturally, loyal to their company and as a rule do not work for other producers.
Among the young generation of Bengali cinema audience, Dev has an extremely large fanbase and well before the release of each of his films, his fans tend to go into a frenzy and there is frequently a scarcity of tickets. Furthermore, Venkatesh Films creates a huge publicity buzz before each of its film’s releases, so much so that time even good Hindi or English films releasing in the same week are literally compelled to pray for footfalls.
French Spectators of Indian Films — Bias and Curiosity
Vanessa Lien Bianci | May 21
The prevailing misconception in France remains that mainstream Bollywood /Kollywood constitutes Indian cinema…
… To understand the primary cause of this belief, it is necessary to examine the psychology of a nation. At the beginning of the twenty first century, knowledge of Indian cinema in France was almost zilch, but the term “Bollywood” was widely used as a synonym for films from India that were of an inferior quality–a kind of ‘illiterate and childish cinema’. Though a totally unfortunate and unfair tag, it says a lot about the subconscious refusal of the elitist French to legitimize a film industry that neither belonged to a Western storytelling tradition nor swore allegiance to Western culture supremacy, in particular, in the field of cinema. This denial by the French cultural intellectuals was in line with their tendency to consider their own culture as the torchbearer.
The Appreciation and Promotion of Cultural Otherness
Vanessa Lien Bianchi | June 25
Cinema is an important medium, and is highly responsible worldwide in constructing otherness. Film industries, since time immemorial, have been aware of this power that it holds, and several studies on this aspect using Hollywood as an example are available. This present study is a result of 10 years of research, backed with a field survey based on experience while conducting seven editions of Le Festival des Films Indiens de Toulouse/Toulouse Indian Film Festival (TIFF). It examines the biases regarding Indian culture held by the majority of French spectators—a majority of them have incorrect ideas about contemporary India—and attempts to find a way to show them the truth.
The primary reason for this widespread misinformation is the escapist Bollywood entertainers, such as Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (15,363 tickets sold in 2001) and Devdas (98,338, in 2003) as well as a few notable films set in India and made by the West, such as Slumdog Millionnaire (2,694,389, in 2009) and Indian Palace (271,131, in 2012). What such canvasses unscrupulously exhibit is an India of contrasting images—grandiose wealth and dire poverty; glamorous haute culture and filthy rags; colorful, luxurious ceremonies and beggars, human trafficking, and exploitation.