No takers for documentaries

Social exclusion

The audience that unconsciously gawks at the rich in films like Dil Dhadakne Do, Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara, Bang Bang, Dostana and says “it is okay to keep our minds at home”, may be escapists too, as they are letting themselves enter a fairy tale which takes them away from their ‘roots’. For most in India, the society projected in these films is as fictitious as the genre suggests.

“The reality may be that half the population in India, do not look anything like the ‘heroes’ or ‘heroines’ we see in our films. And more than half the population cannot afford to see these films. By accepting them so naturally, we are slowly breaking bonds with world beyond our immediate environment and forcing an imagination of a European/ American society,” says Dileep C Mandal, acitizen journalist.

Nakul Singh Sawhney, is a filmmaker and member of ‘Pratirodh ka Cinema’, a small group of professional filmmakers who make and organise screenings of low-budget, socially inclusive films in small time film festivals and private events. Sawhney tells Metrolife, “As films for entertainment are increasingly getting exhibited in multiplexes and accepted, there is no space for documentaries and low-budget films in the Indian film market. Whereas, ‘some’ films remain in theatres for several weeks, films like Naya Pata are pulled out before the week ends.”

But is this the only scary part? For Pawan Kumar Srivastav, director of Naya Pata, the absence of space in the market is not the scariest but the “absence of space in our minds and hearts is what is more daunting.”

Srivastav is trying for funds for his upcoming film Hashiye ke Log. His film, Naya Pata which he made through crowdfunding in just Rs 8 lakh was released through PVR’s Director’s rare. It was the first time in India that a film from Bihar was released by PVR
Director’s Cut.

Speaking to Metrolife, Srivastav exclaims that he makes films for a cause. He is looking for funds for Hashiye ke Log, through a crowdfunding website called Indiegogo. It tells the story of a Dalit community in Chhattisgarh. Srivastav adds, “With corporatism entering Bollywood, India is further cutting down on films for social inclusion. Our country is yet to explore the “real India”, the mass needs to see.”

By “real India” Srivastav says he is speaking for the Dalits whose representation in Bollywood today is nil (without any exception).

While in regional cinema, filmmakers like Govind Nihalani (Aakrosh), Jahnu Barua (Baandhon) and others still explore buried issues like ‘identity crisis’, under the movement of Parallel Cinema, Bollywood has been getting a thrashing for years now for excluding it. But was it always the case?

Ira Bhaskar, Dean, professor of Cinema Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University says, “Bollywood is the same place where we had Achhut Kanya (1936), Sujata (1959), Ankur (1974) and Bandit Queen (1994), which only dealt with the plight of Dalits. Among these, Bandit Queen saw some good days in the New Indian Wave of Cinema.”

The New Indian Wave in cinema came during the late 1960s when the base for movies changed drastically. “In earlier days of Independence there was still a feeling of nationalism in people, hence movies reflected the same. People of the lower strata mattered more than those above,” says Bhaskar.

Someone rightly said “Cinema is the reflection of our society” contrary to this is also a point that “Fairytales are built only in movies”. Bhaskar recounts from memory an incident to buttress this point. She says that when she met Farhan Akhtar during the screening of his film Dil Chahta Hai, someone asked Akhtar post screening, as to “why his film shows nothing of Mumbai city and rather explores the streets of Sydney, whereas his father’s (Javed Akhtar) films only showed the poor and the down trodden?” Bhaskar says Akhtar answered the question rather honestly saying “It is because he has never seen that society where people are poor. He has grown up in a rather plush environment,
unlike his father.”

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