At the end of the year, news came that Pan Nalin’s Gujarati film ‘Chello Sho’ (Last Show) has been shortlisted for the Oscar award. This film was officially sent from India for ‘Best International Feature Film Category’. Also, the song ‘Naatu-Naatu’ from SS Rajamouli’s ‘RRR’ (Telugu), which created a buzz at the box office, was also shortlisted in the ‘Music (Original Song)’ category. Whatever may be the outcome of the Oscar award in the new year, it is certain that in the year 2022 Indian cinema will be dominated by films made in regional languages.
According to one figure, after two years of the Corona epidemic, Indian cinema did a business of about 11 thousand crores at the box office. Here too, there was an edge of films made in South Indian languages over Hindi films. Not only ‘RRR’ but ‘KGF 2’ and ‘Kantara’ made in Kannada language also broke all the records. People were also curious about Mani Ratnam’s ‘Ponniyan Selvan (PS-1)’ (Tamil). There is a substantial difference in the subject matter and on-screen filming of these films.
‘Chello Show’ centers around a Saurashtra kid’s irresistible fascination for cinema. While it is an autobiographical film, ‘Kantara’ is a fictional tale in which the local folk-culture, tradition, faith-belief, customs, religious beliefs and myth of the coastal areas of South Karnataka are beautifully woven with the story . RRR (movement of freedom) and PS-1 (Chola dynasty) make history the basis of the narrative.
‘Action drama’ is at the center of these films. In these big budget films, the skill with which pomp, color and grandeur was woven, managed to attract the audience to the cinema hall. The changing social and political situation of the country, expansion of means of communication, distribution strategy have also contributed to the success of these films. All these films come in the framework of Bollywood’s popular films. Here technology dominates instead of discussion. Incidentally, Kannada has a glorious history of parallel cinema, which is not discussed today.
The movement of majoritarian politics was visible in these films. In this context, it is necessary to discuss ‘The Kashmir Files’ directed by Vivek Agnihotri, which was very successful at the box office. There was also a lot of controversy when the jury chief of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), noted filmmaker Nadav Lapid, described the film as ‘obscene and propaganda’.
In a conversation, famous film director Shyam Benegal told me that ‘as a filmmaker, you have a responsibility towards history. The more propaganda there is in the film, the less its importance will be. Film is also used for propaganda, but while making historical films, it is necessary to take care of objectivity. Without objectivity, it becomes propaganda. Most of the films in the world (about two thousand) are made in India and it is accepted as a cultural power (soft power). The socio-political conditions of democratic India are also expressed in films, willingly or unwillingly.
However, when it comes to Hindi films, even the big stars could not show any special charisma. Ranbir Kapoor’s ‘Shamshera’, Akshay Kumar’s ‘Rakshabandhan’ and ‘Samrat Prithviraj’, Ranveer Singh’s ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’ and ‘Circus’, Kangana Ranaut’s ‘Dhaakad’ etc. failed to pull the audience to the theatres. Economic plight is also a reason. In such a situation, there was a lot of pressure on Bollywood. Obviously, Bollywood is in dire need of new ideas, stories, which can keep pace with the changing mood of the audience, but fear that this path may lead to South Indian films! In the last two decades, Hindi cinema has given many excellent films by taking a path between popular and parallel, and in true sense, the future direction will be determined from here, and not from the stereotyped masala films.
Bollywood’s leading director Sanjay Leela Bhansali brought ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’. Alia Bhatt impressed everyone with her performance in the role of a ‘sex worker’. In this sequence, it is necessary to discuss Aamir Khan’s ‘Lal Singh Chadha’ and Ranbir Kapoor’s ‘Brahmastra’, which may have done decent business but failed to create something new. From the point of view of cinema production, ‘Darlings (Dark Comedy, Director Jasmeet Ke Reen)’ and ‘Monica O My Darling (Murder Mystery, Director Vasan Bala)’ released on Netflix were excellent, which got less discussion. There will be a lot of expectation from the director and actors (Alia Bhatt, Vijay Verma, Shefali Shah, Rajkumar Rao) of both these films in the new year as well.
There was also a negative feeling towards Hindi films in a certain section. The form in which a viewer accepts cinema with entertainment depends on his interest and social status. Seeing and judging cinema under a particular ideology hinders the enjoyment of taste. The sound of ‘Boycott’ is heard on social media regarding Hindi films, it is worrying for both art and cinema business. It should not be forgotten that the cinema industry is a source of employment for millions of people which strengthens the Indian economy.
Apart from the popular films, in the last few years, the films which were liked in national and international film festivals were films of independent filmmakers. Due to lack of budget, these experimental films are not promoted, nor are these films released in theatres. OTT platforms and film festivals are favorable for them. India was included as the ‘Country of Honour’ at the Cannes Film Festival. Achal Mishra’s Maithili film ‘Dhuin (Mist)’ was shown in the film market of the function. While ‘Gamak Ghar’ was the ancestral home of the director, the entire film is set in Darbhanga. Darbhanga is called the cultural center of Mithila, but the plight of artists, unemployment is evident in this cinema. Like ‘Gamak Ghar’, there is a simplicity in the cinematography of this film, which reminds of Iranian cinema. The success of these films marked the beginning of an era in Maithili cinema. In this sequence, Prateek Sharma’s ‘Lotus Blooms’ made headlines by joining IFFI.
Lastly, two documentaries ‘All That Brides’ (Shaunak Sen) and ‘The Elephant Whispers’ (Kartiki Gonsalves) have also been shortlisted for the Oscars. In the coming year, apart from features, people will also keep an eye on documentaries.