Here’s Why New Wave Cinema In India Is Struggling For Audience

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By Brinda Khera:

New wave cinema or parallel cinema in India is quite in contrast to the conventional Bollywood cinema. Known for its in-your-face realism, Indian audience still seems reluctant to embrace it though art films that are much appreciated the world over. Films like Peddler, Miss Lovely, Ugly and many more have won international acclaim but fail to get distributors closer to home. After much difficulty, these films are usually shown in some metropolitans.

parralel cinema

The films are (obviously) great, the directors and producers are well known, yet they seem to struggle to make a niche for these films, somehow surviving on a slippery slope. The problem is the Indian audience. While art films are much appreciated in England and France, the average citizen here is too tired to watch their everyday issue enlarged on the big screen. By average citizen I do not mean you (for most) and me, I mean the middle-class shopkeeper or a rikshaw-puller, who, after a whole day of struggling for 10-12 hours in the Indian weather just wants mindless entertainment. They want to watch dances on trains, people running to airports, the melodrama and though I hate to say this, item numbers. They want to watch something wholly unrealistic with happy endings. Issues of a lot of these new films center around what they face on a day-to-day basis and I personally would not like to watch my woes on the big screen after a hard day. No offence to V. Shantaram, but why would your average milkman want to watch a dog barking at a hut, he can watch it for free all over the country.

On the other hand there are movies like Page 3, Rajneeti and Barfi that are getting audience in the country, the songs and the romance being one of the reasons. Though these movies are somewhere between the new wave and the larger-than-life Bollywood cinema, they do send the intended message across. The dilemma then is if the makers should bend to the wills of this sometimes gaudy audience or should they retain the aesthetic value of the said movie and wait for them to come around. Whatever the answer, I’m sure it would help if they are available in the local theaters for 30-50 bucks too. For the rest of us, for the time being at least, we would have to shell out a fortune for PVR Director’s Rare or go pirate.

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8 comments

  1. A common man would obviously want an entertainer, even when the plot of the story is far away from the bounds of reality. I guess, people who appreciate realistic cinema will have to happily live in their minority realms. :)

  2. Nitin

    Types of different cinema I see, and their ranking from best to worst:

    1. Korean, Japanese and other asian. – Best movies are from Korea. Commercial cinema and negligible censorship( saw a movie of man molesting 10 yr boys and girls). Good production values. All original work, and korean movies are copied around the world.

    2. Iranian cinema – Movies are funded from Europe. Directors are house arrested. Low budget, and all they show is conversation between two people.

    3. Hollywood, English – All sorts of movies. Also they have biggest market around world, and are eating into other countries film industries.

    4. Bollywood, chinese – Strong censorship and restricted content. Big budget.

    5. French, Polish, Danish – Their art cinema is boring to my taste and are of low budget. Have very long scenes without cuts. But their commercial cinema is worse than bollywood.

    6. Rest of the world – Brazil, argentina, Russia, Australia, Mexico etc. – Releases movies occasionally, and are good time pass.

    So where exactly is your problem. I believe it is an easy job to make a good cinema, but hard to make a success full one. Besides we along with korea are the only countries left in world, where local cinema earns more then Hollywood.

    • Exactly my point. Multiplexes are not the only source of income for Bollywood, it is the local theaters that are a significant part of the success of the films too.

  3. I think cinema’s changed over the years reflecting the changing values of society. After being stressed out in daily life, people just want to relax and watch something fun rather than heavy and if the definition of fun is such entertainment then we’re really no one to judge.

  4. You have rightly pointed out that very few people may be interested to watch a film based on the daily trials tribulations of a common man. India is used to watching the lead actors singing and dancing around trees, one actor fighting 20 villains and so on.

    Selling cheap tickets is not an option in my opinion. Movies are here to entertain and make money. Raising social awareness and educating their population is not on their agenda, and that’s fine. A lot is at stake with films, financially.

    Item Numbers are a reflection of the society that a huge population of India lives in. There is a weekly ‘naach’, somewhat like an item number, held in many many villages across the country. That’s reality incorporated into cinema. When something is extremely sexually explicit, the Censor Board bans it.

  5. We now also are being exposed to films which are off-beat or as we call them unconventional. But again with these movies, the problems I find is indeed as rightly pointed out in the article is the problem of distribution. Lower strata people hardly get to watch these films. Also, the larger than life Bollywood films focus less on the realities of life. Item numbers are indeed problematic because they send out the wrong signals, induce patriarchy in an already patriarchal society and the treatment of women as commodities remains the same in these item numbers.

  6. Raj

    What’s wrong in people wanting to watch item numbers? We live in a sexually-repressed society, and the repression is promoted by both traditional men and women. Given that, why not?

    • Item numbers to a large extent objectify women. No offence but imagine someone who is important to you, watched by thousands of men as a piece of meat. It degrades women and enforces patriarchy, specially given the fact that more than half of India is still has a traditional mind set and lives in villages.
      Moreover, item-numbers are not a way to spread sexual awareness. Rather they tend to add to sexual-repression when after watching these dances, your average woman is asked to hide their body even more due to the same objectification.

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