Song and Dance of Indian Cinema

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India has been poorly represented in terms of quality cinema in most of the recent film festivals. There could be many reasons but the ones which are quite apparent are hurting the growth of good cinema in India. More often than not every movie that is sent on behalf of India is so called ?formula? movie. These movies are called so because they are a safe bet for decent box office returns. By churning out these movies either the film makers fool themselves or take all the serious cinema lovers for some sort of ransom. Somehow I think it?s a curse that we cannot expect anything better but watch just routine song and dance and endless melodrama. When you hear some movies being associated with big international film festivals they are mostly big banner movies and are not necessarily featured in the short listed category in the competition. Only movies from strong financial backing get to go to these events so that they can sell their movies at a reasonable price to International distributors. Whatever amount of publicity it creates doesn?t hurt its chances of earning a few extra bucks.

At times we may get carried away when an Indian movie does well at International arena. That success does not necessarily represent the taste of indigenous people. Most of these countries have a strong expatriate community which contributes towards films successful run.  In some other instances people frequent these movies because they might like the vibrancy offered in our movies. May be that even they too like bit of melodrama. That does not necessarily mean that they take these movies as a form of a breakthrough cinema.  Through our inferior way of movie making we present ourselves in a way not much superior than how western movies portray Indians. Somehow our movies still leave a wrong impression of India as an enigmatic land with strange people who sing no matter whether they are happy or sad. Every movie is nothing but a collection of clich?s.

Some estimate says that India is the world?s largest film Industry with over 800 films released per year. Part of these movies comes from various regional languages. Not all these films make any headlines and most of them vanish unnoticed even in India.  As the trade pundits would call it the ?grade A? movies suppose to impress class audience. Any guesses how many such movies come out from the film Industry? It would be better to abstain from such futile exercise.

It?s hard to believe when good directors like Ketan Mehta, Shyam Benegal famous for their ?art? movies have opted to make ?popular? (keeping financial returns in mind) movies. The thing which is beyond comprehension is that why a movie has to be ?art? or ?commercial?. It?s ironic that people who have made a name for themselves doing good movies have lost their touch and make shallow and unimaginative bollywood movies. I remember ?Hyderabad Blues?, did really well without many songs in it. Likewise ?Bhoot? also had an impressive run. This proves that Indians can differentiate between a good and a bad movie. However week after week say more than 90% of movies are uninspiring in appeal.  It can be explained by nothing but the incompetence of Film makers. The movie ?Lagaan? without so many songs featured in it might have fared much better than how it did. You can?t say much about ?Devdaas? where everything was overdone and it was the Indian choice for Oscars. Sad isn?t it?  It?s hard to believe there wasn?t a single movie which was more competent that year. Not surprising then that India hasn?t ever won any Oscar. Not to say that Oscar is the ultimate prize but India is one of the countries with least nominations and no award so far. At Oscars we are lagging behind countries like Bosnia & Herzegovina, Algeria and Ivory Coast. A number of the Indian movies which do well in some of the film festivals do not even get a decent run back home which in turn defeat the purpose of promoting good cinema.
Probably it?s us to be blamed, for we still go and watch these nonsensical movies time after time and are idolizing these fake talents. We hear a lot about India lacking technology to compete with Hollywood. But what sort of technology one needs to do movies like ?Usual Suspects?, ?Schindler’s List?, ?Shakespeare in Love? or ?The Shawshank Redemption?? The point is that in recent years Indian cinema has been failing time and again in every department of film making. Be it a good script, screenplay, a good background score to go with the theme or real acting. You just don?t get any intellectual stimulation out of it. It doesn?t inspire you to think and innovate. Its not that nice movies are not being made but they put so much of stuff in one film, ruining the final product.

There was a time when without television, movies were sole mode of mass entertainment and we believed whatever was portrayed without worrying too much about practicality. I bet you wouldn?t be able to watch even an old Amitabh starred movie without ridiculing the silliness of the plot. But those movies at least had the actors/actresses acting. You would feel their emotions hidden in their dialogues. The one quality that can be attributed to them in their favor is that these people just wanted to be actors and took their job seriously. However now people are lured into the film industry because of the glamour involved. Nothing wrong if these people were inspired by the likes of Amitabh, Sanjeev Kumars etc. However if they cannot deliver then they should not be given more chances at the expense of real talent. It?s hard to figure out that we can?t get good people into cinema. But the real fact may be that some really talented people have all exhausted their hope in waiting for a chance and moreover seeing people not worthy of it stealing all the limelight. This is pure injustice.

Most of the current actors or actresses have qualified by just being sons and daughters of established actors or are models or people who appeared in beauty pageants. By watching their movies we are robbing the real artists by indirectly helping these people gain foothold in the film industry. This vicious cycle would continue and it would get more difficult for a newcomer to get into films. Prithvi Raj and Raj Kapoor?s connection got all the Kapoor?s in the movies. Similarly it?s for sure that every actor couples children are or will one day get into movies. Whatever their connection, we should be comforted by the fact that only people with good talent will sustain in the long run. By the time its proven many production houses would have spent money in vain.

We should know that a person who says they might consider films if a nice plot comes along is not dying to act. Only established actors/ actresses should have that luxury to choose. If they were really interested in acting they would rather get themselves into other forms where they can hone their abilities like in theatre or so. How many young actors or actresses who are in films today have acted before live audience? The answer is that without acting abilities you have no chance of holding attention of live audience for that long. And the fear that they would fail even before they start is enough for them to keep distance. Why can?t all the film stars who have come through the ranks instill the sincerity of purpose in their children? I will have more respect and bear them bit longer if these people who think they have inherited the prowess of their parents, struggle their way up.

Just how ludicrous the situation is, can be seen by what happened at recent National award controversy where Saif Khan got award for his performance in ?Hum Tum?. When asked whether his mother Sharmila Tagore, chairperson of Censor Board of India could have influenced National Film Awards jury to favour her son, Sudhir Mishra, who headed the 17-member jury, said, “We are ready to defend our decision. His acting is better and has improved a lot?. Another jury member says that the actor had done a wonderful job in the film and it was not necessary to give an award to a ‘heavy’ performance all the time and they tried to be different this time. An honest answer would have been that ?he deserved it?. You don?t expect the jury to be ?different?. Their job is to analyse the film and performance according to its merit. Besides according to this logic every Indian actor should get a National award for improvement alone. How can one expect good cinema to prosper when authorities responsible are rotten in ethics?

 From top to bottom our film Industry is filled with these kind of people. Same people will again decide which film would represent India at the next International film festival. They wield their power not only by not doing anything sensible but also depriving the exposure the real artists deserve. The best of the Indian cinema had classics including some of my all time favorites like, ?Angoor?, ?Shatranj Ke Khiladi?, ?Choti si Baat? and ?Golmaal?. It feels as if we have lost a generation of fine craftsmen who with limited resources portrayed the innocence of that age magnificently on screen. But the current pack of dim-witted actors/film makers have a misplaced sense of artistry and are no match to these past masters of perfection. But as they say, hope is a good thing and let?s hope our eyes will get to see that magic once again light up the screens.

Author: Vijay DSouza- U.K.

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