An educated man will define films as motion pictures with a flowing storyline. A layman will define it as an entertainment medium. But a film can simply be defined as nothing more than a multiple combinations of a ‘camera on’ and ‘camera off ‘ (shot). Having made the term sound ridiculously simple, doesn’t really make the process of filmmaking any simple, nor does it take away its importance from our culture. Every rendered video with shots stitched together is technically a film, but every film doesn’t add value to our society.
In a country like India, where approximately 1700 films are made every year. It’s not just a part of our culture, it’s a culture in itself. So, this powerful medium needs to make a responsible effort to feed the society with subtle social moralities, so the socio-political balance is maintained. Unfortunately, this responsibility seems missing in the recent past.
History of the Indian film industry goes back to 1913, when Dada Saheb Phalke came up with his first silent film Raja Harishchandra. Since then, the industry has gone through multiple reforms and stages, as any other art form. But over the years India went through only a technical reform, and hence could never make a mark in the world cinema circuit. The divided terminology of commercial cinema, art cinema and parallel cinema has majorly contributed to the chaos in the film fraternity.
India recently celebrated 100 years of Cinema. And during this period India managed to produce more than 50,000 films. But is it at all about the number game? Film as a medium not only influences our society, but also takes the same society’s reflection, and projects it to the world.
In our history of 100 years of cinema, one can hand-pick films who made a mark in the international circuit. Satyajit Ray’s “Pather Panchali” in 1955 was the first film to gain international acclamation. Since then MrinalSen’s “Kharij” (1983) , Chetan Anand’s “Neecha Nagar” (1946), Mira Nair’s “Salaam Bombay” (1988) and Shahji N. Karun’s “Piravi” (1989) were among the few films who made a mark outside the domestic boundaries, winning prestigious international awards till the end of the 20th century.
Now the major question of why arises.Is it because we are not intelligent enough as filmmakers? Or we are not equipped enough? Or is it because, we ourselves set a lower benchmark of films just meaning ‘Entertainment’?
The intellectuals might want to choose the third. But one also has to understand, a film has to cater to a target audience, and the majority of the audience in India is still not ready to consume beyond the already set benchmark. Statistically, most of the Indian films which got global recognition were not the films consumed by the Indian audience. So to sustain filmmaking as a business, the portrayal of content changed from what the filmmaker wanted to portray, to what the audience wanted to see.
The gradual dilution of content has led to the modern-day number game(100crclub). The number system has been forced by the media, into the audience’s psyche to such an extent that presently films are being judged only by the money it’s making. Sadly the present scenario, is leading good filmmakers to take a commercial framework for their film to sustain in the industry.
There is no one route to make a film, And commerce and numbers should not be the only parameters to make films. One has to find a midway to merge content with commerce, and that should be the way forward for parallel cinema. In recent times, films like “Court”, “The Lunchbox” and “Baahubali” stuck to the basic framework of the Indian film industry yet made a huge buzz internationally. Hence, proving a point.
The Indian film industry has immense potential, it just needs the right mix to make its mark in the global scheme of things.