Indian cinema: east wants funding; south, showcasing strength

NEW DELHI: The government needs to do its bit for dying cinema in the eastern region and earmark a certain budget exclusively for them, though the South showed how strong it is, and only prayed with the media to showcase them to the world.

These are the two contrasting views that emerged from the panel discussion titled "Relevance of regional media and entertainment industry in the global context" during the Assocham Global Media and Entertainment Summit, Focus 2007, being held here.

Award-winning Bengali cinema director Raja Sen made the point strongly, "I have received three President‘s Awards, and one of them is for a children‘s film. However, till date, none of the Central agencies meant for funding films have done anything for me."

Sen obviously meant that if awarded directors have to face this plight, the situation for unrecognised directors could well be imagined.

"I come from Bengali cinema, but I also have to represent cinema from the entire east, which is dying in the absence of government support," Sen said, adding that even Assamese and Oriya cinemas are facing the same situation.

As most leftist intellectuals would have it, Sen reiterated that this is because of the unrelenting march of globalisation, and that funding is an immediate necessity if new life is to be infused into eastern Indian cinema.

He was seconded by the young singer-turned-actor from Bhojpuri cinema, Manoj Tiwari, who said that corporates should look at Bhojpuri as well as eastern cinema in general.

Tiwari stated that one film, Sasra Bada Paiseywallah, made at a cost of Rs 37 lakh, has grossed Rs 34 crore and exemplified the potential of Bhojpuri cinema.

However, L Suresh, a producer of Tamil films, stressed that southern cinema was going great guns, pointing out at a Cannes Film Festival 2005 official document that said that globally, the biggest grosser for the year had been a Tamil film Chandramukhi, followed by Bunty Aur Babli at the seventh place.

Suresh also said that the Rajnikath starrer Shivaji was released across the globe and grossed Rs 175 crore, and that of the 12,000 theatres across the country, 6,000 are in the south and 60 to 65 per cent of India‘s total film produce comes from there.

"I want to state that regional cinema is big, but the limelight has been taken away by the big brother Hindi films, and the media needs to spread the achievements of southern films," Suresh said.

The Marathi cinema actor Mahesh Manjrekar said that the state had a tradition as old as that of Indian cinema, but it had been almost dying till the late 1990s, till the advent of the film Suhas.

Manjrekar said that with that film, Marathi cinema found back its content and revived itself.

Interestingly, Javed Akhtar, poet-lyricist and screenplay veteran, observed that Hindi cinema itself has weakened, pointing out that there is no strong hero today and hence, no strong villain, and the films themselves are weak, though they could be grossing well often.

Akhtar showed how society drove film content, rather than the reverse. In the early 40s, when land issues were central in society, the villains in Hindi films were the zamindars, and then in the 50s, as industrialisation grew, it was the mill owners, the capitalists.

"During the 60s came the dadas (dons), but suddenly, as and when the moral fabric of the society started weakening in the 70s, those very dadas became the heroes in the films, and were slowly replaced by the politicians and police as villains in the 80s."

Akhtar said that after flirting for a while in the 90s with Pakistan as the evil force, now there are no villains and no heroes either.

Hindi cinema is in a dilemma, Akhtar said, because "We cannot have a strong society without dreams, but today our dreams are very personal because there is no collective aspiration and no collective dream in a society which has become extremely individualistic."

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