By Akhil Kumar:
A quick look at the number of Indian feature films certified by the Central Board of Film Certification in 2011 paints a sorry picture of the depiction of regional cinema in Indian cinema journalism; more than 83% of movies that contribute to the Indian cinema were made in regional languages(other than Hindi and English). How many regional movies did we read about, see or still remember from the past year? Now, compare that with your memory of Hollywood and Bollywood hits; not that I demand we remember as much of regional cinema but the bias is overwhelming. I am sure not many of us can remember even 4-5 names. Is regional cinema not good enough? Are quality movies not made in other languages? It’s time we should ask our media that question.
Cinema is a very beautiful, engaging and effective means of artistic expression and should not be sidelined on linguistic, cultural or demographic prejudices. Language is supposed to be the vehicle of thoughts but our deep rooted mindset to stereotype everything makes us discriminate and even judge everything on pre-conceived faulty notions. Most of the educated audience in cities would prefer watching an English, French or Iranian movie with the help of subtitles but do not bother to explore the rich heritage of regional cinema; a common escapist argument is that the subtitled or dubbed versions are not easily available but the supply is directly proportional to demand. Now that we are back to the question of demand; why do we demand something? What effects our decision making process and how do we get informed about the choices?
We generally demand something because we find it useful, interesting or attractive; constant presence and persuasion in the mass media effects our decision making process and the choices are selectively presented by the media in accordance with its own profit and bias. Our regional cinema has suffered greatly due to media negligence. “Regional films don’t get the kind of coverage they deserve. No one wants to write or talk about it. Last year a Tamil film won four or five National Awards. But no one knows about it. Even at National Awards ceremony this year, the media focused only on Vidya Balan. They didn’t even want to talk to anybody else,” Punjabi filmmaker Gurvinder Singh told IANS in an interview last year. Singh’s first feature film ‘Anhe Ghore Da Daan’ (Alms for a Blind Horse) won national awards for Best Direction, Cinematography and Best Feature Film in Punjabi at the 59th National Film Awards of India and also travelled to 15 international film festivals including the London Film Festival, Busan International Film Festival and Abu Dhabi film fest, where it won a Rs.25 lakh award.
People tend to prefer watching anything in their local language because they instantly relate to it but the lack of content and resources serves as a major hindrance in production of quality cinema. There is a huge untapped reserve of talent in the regional industry which could bring more variety, quality and content to Indian cinema if nurtured properly and given equal attention and motivation. The innumerable regional movies that have won National awards and screened at various prestigious international film festivals stand testimony to the appeal of cultural vibrancy in cinema. The steady inflow of actors and stories from regional cinema into mainstream Bollywood in recent times shows that there is no dearth of talent or content and if their work is promoted keeping the originality intact, they can create artistic masterpieces.
Quality cinema from all regions should be promoted; wouldn’t it be better if we had the option to choose between James Bond, Chokher Bali, Anhe Ghore Da Daan, Byari and Deool along with Life of Pi and Dabangg the next time we go to a multiplex? The reason that regional movies along with alternate and new wave cinema are not screened in popular multiplexes and at affordable rates is that there are no takers. Awareness among the general audience about regional cinema is needed to make them understand that it’s not just about Mallu soft porn or Rajnikant’s logic defying heroics. “Start demanding for what you want to see, that’s the only way it will be available at affordable rates. The filmmakers are helpless and cannot just go out and screen their movies to the general public; we are bound by different factors including the demand of the distributors and producers. If there is enough demand, it will be available.” confessed Anurag Kashyap in a public meeting at JNU when I asked why some outstanding movies are only screened at PVR Director’s Rare which a student cannot easily afford.
Even though the media has recently started focusing on some regional sensations but that doesn’t mean it has genuinely developed a sudden interest in it; the corporate media exploits every possible opportunity to squeeze out any publicity from them. It will extensively cover ‘Kolaveri Di’ but not a trace of the many brilliant works that fade in anonymity. It is the responsibility of the mainstream media to cover indigenous works and make people more aware and interested as they are the primary source of information and news for the majority of our population.
All of us have a story to tell, let’s make that easier!