Following the Eastern trail

Following the Eastern trail

The idea of pan-Asianism might not sit well with everyone but it does have its strengths. While most people actively glorify Western productions, directors, actors, cinematographers and editors, there’s little emphasis on Asian cinema, in particular independent makes. Even when it comes to award functions, people would rather visit Cannes or be nominated for an Academy Award than a national one.


This is something that bothered (and continues to do so) Aruna Vasudev, who was in the City recently for Bengaluru International Film Festival, which is why she founded Network For Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) in 1990. Talking about the organisation and Asian cinema itself, she says that it’d be better to look homewards than the West. She also mentions that it wouldn’t be inaccurate to club films from different parts of Asia under one label. “If you can categorise European cinema as opposed to US cinema, why can’t you do the same here? If you examine this deeper, you’ll notice that films from Asia have commonalities. Our attitude towards life, family, the way we live and address elders and cultural conditioning are similar. Then, of course it changes. But the basic cultural values are the same. To show and exchange these similarities, instead of focussing on the differences, is interesting. Why look West when we have nothing in common with them?”

But this doesn’t mean she’s blind to the drum march of modernisation, which has turned into mass-produced trend. “Of course, all of Asia has Western influences. There’s no harm in getting to know the world. The modern world is growing in the same way wherever you go. Youngsters are dressing the same everywhere. But certain values will remain the same and watching Asian films is enriching and entertaining.”

A constant observer of the Indian film industry, Aruna feels that things are slowly changing for the better. She remembers her early days as a film critic when she made a hue and cry about creating a network to showcase independent cinema but no one listened. But now, “Things are changing. Before, I wrote and spoke about this but nothing happened, now films like ‘Thithi’ have an audience. Youngsters want to see more than just some songs and melodrama.” With a little help from the government, she believes filmmaking in India can go a long way.

This, however, doesn’t mean she wants politics to play a role in this. Aruna’s suggestion is that the government set up bodies that encourage independent films but that’s where their involvement ends. “These bodies should be run by professionals in the field and not politicians who don’t know anything about films.”

With technology playing a great part in a person’s film education these days, there should be a change in censorship laws, she says.

“I think we have to be much more open now as attitudes are changing. Almost everything is accessible to a person through television and phones. And it’s not difficult to download movies. So there’s no point in stopping cinema, whether it’s sex, violence or attitude towards cultures.” But there is a line that has to be drawn when it comes to censorship.
“This requires people in position of power to step down and rethink policies. It’s a very different world.”

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