Can film fest help blur parallel-mainstream divides?

Filmmakers ponder over good cinema's commercial potential

Can film fest help blur parallel-mainstream divides?

Do film festivals help parallel cinema gain wider acceptance in the wider world? Do they kindle that elusive interest in good cinema struggling to keep pace with the pyrotechnics of mainstream movies? The message thus far from the Bengaluru International Film Festival (Biffes) has been clear. No!

Path-breaking, gripping stories in celluloid from around the world have nourished the audience. Packed movie halls at Orion Mall are testimony to the power of the moving images, irrespective of the cultural context. But as veteran filmmaker P Sheshadri reminded DH, those crowds will disappear if the same films were screened commercially.

Sheshadri should know. His nine films never competed with the big budget movies. He was lucky to screen all his films commercially precisely because his budget was low and expectations of profit-making modest. Now working on his 10th film, the veteran is convinced the public would always make that distinction. Parallel cinema, at least here, would be just that: Parallel.

Is that an admission that film festivals will remain exclusive clubs frequented only by the discerning few? That they have no role in evolving a mature audience outside the circuit?

Sheshadri does not agree. Festivals fulfil that role indirectly, by inspiring filmmakers to experiment with new story-telling techniques, by foraying into hitherto unexplored genres. “I myself became a meaningful filmmaker through the festivals. I realised that cinema is not only about Rajkumar and Vajramuni,” he recalled.

Experiments would be suicidal in mainstream cinema. But that is not always true. Thanks to the evolved film society culture in Kerala, filmmakers had managed to transcend those boundaries of commerce and good cinema.

Bengaluru, noted Sheshadri, could have achieved that had it nurtured film societies. But he wondered where were they, barring the now defunct Bangalore Film Society and the Suchitra Film Society.

Mansore, director of “Harivu” has a different take on the entire issue. He agrees that Malayalam, Bengali and to an extent Marathi films have prepared audiences to appreciate such films. But he is optimistic about Kannada films replicating that through ‘Janata theatres.’ Instead of cash subsidy, elaborated Mansore, the state government could release good films at Janata theatres. “Money made from these screenings could be given back to producers. I have realised through private screenings of my film that there is an audience in every district.”

Low budget films made with good story line and innovative techniques have a greater chance of commercial success because their costs remain low. Young law graduate Vishnu knew why exactly he came to this conclusion: The 13 films he watched at Biffes were proof of that huge potential.

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