Indian cinema turned 100 on April 21, 2012. In a country where over 1,000 films are made every year, in several languages, when we celebrate a century of filmmaking excellence, how do we define Indian cinema?
movies, naturally comprise the majority of Indian film industry, while
regional films make up the rest (Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam,
Marathi, Oriya, Bengali, Gujarati, Bhojpuri etc). From Teflon coated
candyfloss romances peppered with lavish song-dance sequences shot in
exotic locales, gritty underworld flicks, coming of age pangs of
20-somethings, kick butt action capers to social melodramas and tickle
you pink stories - the Indian movies have just about touched every genre
From mindoggling blockbusters to multiplex movies tailor-made for
English speaking Indians, to typical 'NRI' films with enough emotional
content to tug at the heartstrings of homesick Indian diaspora, the
platter is huge and diverse.
The annual National Awards, in fact,
makes it amply clear how little we know of Indian cinema beyond
Bollywood and some regional language films. Not many of us were even
aware that a language called Byari existed! The best feature film award
for 2011 was also given to Byari(alongwith the Marathi film Deool), a film based on the dialect spoken by the people in it.
As we gear up to raise a toast to a cinema that's 100 years old, it's a
moment of great national pride and glory for all Indians. Unlike other
western film industries, the Indian film industries have not been too
heavily influenced by the Hollywood film industry and continue to retain
its local flavour, essence, emotions and dialect. Indian films get to
do their share of globetrotting at prestigious world film festivals,
Indian stars walk the red carpet in Cannes and other festivals along
with their global counterparts, our films find their reviews by top
international film journals and newspapers.
Granted, many Indian
filmmakers continue to hope for Uncle Oscar's mini replica to adorn
their trophy collection, but the endorsement isn't all important
anymore. India has its own distinct multi-lingual, multi-hued crop of
films, some of them entertaining, some made for aesthetic pleasure, but
all of them for your eyes only, for people like us.
directed by Satyajit Ray was among the earliest Indian films to have
received global recognition (it got 11 international awards). Indian
cinema has an identity that is very unique and unmatched. We have moved
from the black and white silent films to 3D, but our cinema continues to
retain its basic essence - to thrill. Even as internet downloads and
television continue to cannibalize the theatrical revenues of Indian
films, the lure of the 35 mm is something else altogether.
course it would be nice if regional films were given the much needed
leg-up and importance they deserve. Not many Indians are aware of the
immense talent that lies in regional film industries. It takes the
occasional Kahaani, to show India the versatility of character
actors Parambrata Chattopadhaya and Saswata Chatterjee (the man who made
Bob Biswas, the most iconic baddie in just a 10 minute role!), or a 160
crore (rough estimate) film ( Endhiran) made by Shankar to prove how technologically advanced Indian cinema really is.
Perhaps we'd be better equipped to define Indian cinema if we get to
see good films in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bhojpuri, Marathi, Bengali,
Assamese (and may be even Byari), with subtitled versions in
multiplexes, or on national television. A century later, surely, this is
the least we can ask for, if Indian cinema needs to leapfrog into the
next century with bigger and better strides, ahead of its western and