Thought Box



by Monojit Lahiri June 30 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 2 secs

This is India’s clean sweep, with no credit to India at all! Monojit Lahiri tries to explain why confusion is confounded in this dizzying "Apna time aayega" moment!

Someone once said that we live in a box of space and time, with movies as windows in its walls. They allow us to enter other minds by seeing the world as another person sees it. If the film is any good, the audience’s faces reflect an out-of-body experience. They, briefly, reside somewhere else, sometime else, focused on lives that are not their own. Of all the arts, movies are perhaps the most powerful aid to empathy, with the good ones transforming us into better people.

Let’s go to Cannes. India has been religiously sending films to the prestigious Cannes ever since it saw the light of day, with both Murphy’s Law and the Law of Diminishing Results working overtime! From the world's largest film-producing country, the scorecard has been abysmally low. The jury forever continued to make the right noises before dumping our films on the tray marked ‘OUT’. In fact, the last time that an Indian film made it to the competition was in 1994 with Shaji N. Karun’s "Swaham"! Between 1946 and 1994, only 22 films were visible in competitions, with Ray (4) and Sen (3) leading the way.

Cut to Cannes 2024, where, finally, it's been a resounding Can–not-Canned–at-Cannes! The scorecard was soul-elevating and heartwarming with Indian films sweeping the biggest awards to a standing ovation from the Cannes classy, evolved fraternity! Now comes the tricky and uncomfortable part for movies that seem to have come from Bollywood’s poverty row! Payal Kapadia's “All We Imagine As Light”, which won the Grand Prix award, happened only because it was funded by French sources. India reportedly didn't even give the rebate promised. Sandhya Suri’s “Santosh” was fully funded by the UK Lottery Fund, Karan Kandhari’s film “Sister Midnight” was funded from the UK, while Konstantin Bojanov’s film, “The Shameless” was almost self-funded.

Fearless, frank, and explosive iconoclast filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, who knows this scenario inside out, laughs out loud and long at the so-called bodies taking pride, joy, and most importantly “credit” for these victories!! He insists that the entire credit lies totally with these gifted, passionate, gritty, and uncompromising filmmakers who had massive problems but surmounted them, doing it their way with international co-productions. India has never and will never provide any support for films that rattle the status quo.

Why? Why do Indian production houses, distributors, exhibition, media, and audiences turn away from a cinema that portrays truth “twenty-four times per second”? Veteran and hugely respected film critic Saibal Chatterjee is happy to pull the trigger without fuss or frippery. He states, “India is totally seduced by mediocrity and familiarity! It may be movie-crazy but is cinema-illiterate! By and large, populist entertainment is its calling card and catering to the lowest common denominator, its mantra. It has zero knowledge or interest in any form of cinematic narrative that challenges the mind or takes a leap into the unknown, to engage in an exciting voyage of discovery. Further, and this is tragic, any film that attempts to toe the anti-establishment line in any form is OUT! So social ills, or evils are taboo. Most of these award-winning films make solid statements that clearly could rock the shaky boat at home with the powers that be, but are loved, welcomed, and celebrated in places where cinema is seen as an enriching and empowering form of art!!”

Isn't it such savage irony that when finally Indian filmmakers are holding the India flag atop the highest mountain, they are unlikely to be championed or celebrated at home, with remote chances of release - theatrical or OTT, since politics, allegedly, has made its way there too, denying at least a small section of the culturally evolved cineaste the chance to sample these cutting-edge gems? At a time when Deepika's baby bump, Sonakshi Sinha’s wedding, and Bhansali’s over-the-top “Hiramandi” are chewing the headlines and most of Bollywood’s crappy projects have to be peeled off the ceiling, shouldn’t these powerful films, emerging from the welter of human experience and zeroed-in from the theatre of life without the raw edges, with characters not involved in the dumb simplistic-minded problems of Bollywood plots but adults, for the most part outside organised religion and faced with situations that demand honest moral and ethical choices, be given a chance to allow audiences to see the films that have brought honour and prestige to the country...true-blue totems for a cultural crusade?

I rest my case, esteemed reader.

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