Friday, October 31, 2008

Cinephilia in India: a search for love and identity




‘The Cinephile is the one who keeps his eyes wide open in vain but will not tell anybody that he could not see any thing. He is the one preparing for a life as a professional ‘watcher’ as a way to make up for being late, as slowly as possible’

- Serge Daney


‘Perhaps it is not cinema that has ended but only cinephilia -- the name of the very specific kind of love that cinema inspired. Each art breeds its fanatics. The love that cinema inspired, however, was special. It was born out of the conviction that cinema was an art unlike any other: quintessentially modern; distinctively accessible; poetic and mysterious and erotic and moral -- all at the same time. Cinema had apostles. (It was like religion.) Cinema was a crusade. For cinephiles, the movies encapsulated everything. Cinema was both the book of art and the book of life.’

- Susan Sontag, ‘The Decay of Cinema’


Main Entry:
cine·phile
Function:
Noun
Etymology:
French cinéphile, from ciné + -phile
Date:
1968
: A devotee of motion pictures
- Merriam Webster.


On Christmas week 1910, India saw the birth of its first cinephile who while watching ‘The Life of Christ’ had visions, and he wrote:

“While the life of Christ was rolling fast before my physical eyes, I was mentally visualizing the Gods, Shri Krishna, Shri Ramchandra, their Gokul and Ayodhya. I was gripped by a strange spell. Could we, the sons of India, ever be able to see Indian images on the screen?”

Dada Saheb Phalke saw every film he could get his hands on from that moment. His love for the medium drove him to London to further understand the techniques and refine his senses as a filmmaker. On his return, Dada Saheb Phalke relived his dreams to make films. Dada Saheb Phalke had seen the film like many others but the passion he bore, the love he showed, and the way he pioneered the exhibition and production of the medium made him the first cineaste we had in India. However, similar to Alfred Nobel his great discovery of the medium did not move in the way it should have been. Dada Shaeb Phlake did not inspire or increase cinephilia in India, but set the base for film production, however, there are no clear indication of development in mise-en-scene from then on. And he unknowingly laid the foundation of Bollywood where ever since we haven’t been able to shake- off our love for the epic form.

He also laid the roots for ‘Idol-worship’ in Indian cinema that has continued to be an important aspect of identification for the Indian audience with cinema. When audiences watched their beloved mythology came alive on screen, the first seeds of ‘fascination’ and ‘love’ without a critical space became etched in our genes. Ever since, the admiration has grown by leaps and bounds. It’s only during the late 40s that this form of love was further enlarged and cinephile and cinephilia as such developed. Further, with the growth of the bourgeois in India their mannerism formed another form of love for the medium. This love was build on the foundation of forming a knowledge and displaying it, or watching films to become a part of a social class or acceptance. It’s this form of love for cinema that has flourished and is booming currently in India. Where typical of the nature of such cine-goers: hypocrisy, lies, and pseudo-intellectualism is rampant. The love of cinema in India can be seen from three basic divisions:

1) Idol worship
2) The Bourgeois Gaze
2) Cinephilia

The inception of the ‘Calcutta Film Society’ is a landmark event in the history of Indian cinema and the advent of ‘Cinephilia in India’. The film society spearheaded a growth in the way people looked at films and viewed cinema in the country. This rise of film societies in India inspired a legion of filmmakers; especially in Calcutta, audience had an access to watch movies and meet like minded people unlike before. Satyajit Ray, Chidananda Das Gupta and Bansi Chandragupta sowed the first seeds of ‘Cinephilia’ in India, that eventually lead to the growth of these three men to writing and making films in times to come: Ray as a filmmaker, Das Gupta as critic and Bansi Chandragupta as an Art Director.

Similarly, Adoor Goapalakrishan a graduate of FTII, Pune established the first society in Kerala, the society also aimed at production, distribution and helping to formulate a passage for good cinema in state of Kerala. Interestingly, the enthusiasm and passion of the ‘period’ is the main source of strength along with the support of the government agencies (FFC now NFDC) that led to the emergence of auteur and good cinema for a considerable period of time. The death of film societies rather the death of enthusiasm, passion and lack of support was a major blow to the decline in ‘Cinema of India’ and ‘Cinephilia in general’.


There seems to be a vacuum- a black hole- somewhere between the transitions of cinema in India from 70s to 80s, because it’s exactly in this short period everything seems to have declined. The right reasons are hard to pin down. Except for the notable cinephile turned filmmakers, critics, and historian of 60s and 70s, post 80s onwards ‘Cinephilia in India’ and ‘Cinema in India’ suffered from the same fate. And it’s during this era of decline that film festivals in India and cinephilia in general shifted from love of cinema into snobbism, lies and hypocrisy. It’s not that it did not exist during the era bygone, it did, but it materialized and become a dominant presence that can be felt even today. It has more to do with the bourgeois framework that we come from than our own individual thinking. Where to see, collect, and intellectualize is an important sign of knowledge and collective approval from the crowd and society. Either one has too much money to exhibit those attribute or highlight them using the tools of knowledge.

Interestingly, ‘Idol-worship’ continued to be an important part of the culture: socially and politically, where the ‘matinee’ idol embodied an important place in the minds and heart of film lovers. This spirit has continued to grow and today in the age of satellite boom the media has populated the images into a state of fetish (Like offering prayers when their superstar is sick, and the media reports it as breaking news). While a win by a film director, at an important film festival, in the competitive section of the festival goes unreported. This type of fetish is seen across India. Here, Bollywood is a form of escapism; a place where people go to dream, relax, enjoy and laugh and this assembly reminds us of the fascination our audiences had with other form of popular recreation most notably the circus. However, unlike the circus, the ‘dreams’ and the ‘life’ portrayed on screen are ‘larger’ than what most middle-class Indian population could have aspiration of, the loves here exist as fetish, where any form of critical breakdown is never accepted. Though their lies a similarity of ‘ fetish’ in a cinephile’s love for cinema and the fetish found in 'idol-worship', however, as Christian Metz points out that the ‘fetish’ in the case of a cinephile transpose into a different altitude altogether:

“The fetish is the cinema in its physical state," says Metz, adding that when the love for the cinema is extended from a fascination with technique to a critical study of its codes and processes of signification, the disavowal attached to the fetish becomes a form of knowledge (ibid., p. 75). Cinephilia, in other words, enables the semiotician to love the cinema while gaining a critical distance from its lure

On the other hand, the love of the cinephile has the ‘space’ for a critical breakdown and s (he) is ready to provide evidence, reasons, and is equipped regarding the understanding of the medium. Cinephile is ‘The Love of Cinema’ as Christian Metz defined the term for ‘Cinephile’ in his book; ‘The Imaginary Signifier’. However, the love of cinema for a cinephile also has similarities in the intensity with which the basic three divisions of film lovers are in India, but the difference lies in their degree and range of love for the medium. This degree and range display different aspects that is related to the history, tradition, culture of the medium per se, but it also attributes qualities that are purely related to our own being an existence. Here the love is just not an attraction: physical or mental, but the love is also about exploring the properties and stylistics’ traits of the medium. This is an important trait of ‘watching’ and ‘learning’ for the cinephile, but for ‘idol-worshipers’ it does not matter, everything is acceptable, provided their favorite stars are present. Hence, ‘Cinephile’ or ‘Cinephilia’ should not be confused with such form of love and imagery worship.


So then the question arises, does ‘Cinephilia exist in India’? The answer is that they have always existed even in the darkest periods, but in such small numbers that it’s hard to point them out. However, post 90s globalization in India, due to the opening of Indian economy for various FDI which eventually lead to the growth in various sectors. This has also contributed to the way film viewing experience has changed through: Multiplexes, Satellite channels and availability of cheap CDs and DVDs. This also lead to the rise of Internet and mobile culture. All these aspects has lead to the growth and ‘Appreciation of Cinema’ in the country, where people are getting aware about watching good films and not just sticking to watching routine Bollywood fare. These groups of people mainly belong to the urban class. The urban class of film lover notably refers to people leaving in the metros in India (but such from of bourgeois gaze is just not restricted to metros) they have the facilities and the accessibilities to watch foreign films in theatres, film festivals, and in their own homes. And it’s exactly here we find second group of film lovers and these group should not be confused with cinephilia or even to an extent adhering to cinephile.


Here the ‘ urban class’ of film lovers have taken up the task of appreciating foreign films, and among this social class some typical traits of bourgeoisie narrow-mindness and hypocrisy can be seen. And is evident through all forms of cinema exhibition in the country whether at a film festivals or film screening. This appreciation of films could be referred as the ‘Bourgeois Gaze’ . There is a distinction between people who fall under such platter of film lovers from yesteryears and today. The older lot has slightly become more reconciled in their own cocoons and could be seen more with their own types at film festivals or film screenings and their discussion or the sharing never moves beyond such social group. On the contrary, the younger lot of the same stature actually looks forward to engage, display, or even interact usually in awe to display their love or sudden knowledge of the field. Yet, both forms do not have the space cultivated in for a critical discourse. This is because the love itself is not a pure manifestation, but come towards the field with other invisible source of pretence that carries a disavowal of some form of hidden materialistic desires and acceptance.


This form of façade is very different from the ‘desires’ exhibited by a cinephile towards their relationship of cinema. All three forms of cine-love is justified and accepted at its own limitation and boundaries, however, what causes the distinction of film love is in the personal desires exhibited in the relationship of subject towards the medium. Each desires again could be debated within the framework of an individual vision and goals of life, but when such ‘desires’ are placed on the broader outlook of the medium forms, the social responsibility, the political scenario and scope that the medium itself provides, the clear limitation and redundancy of vision over personal materialistic quest makes the love critically flawed unlike that of a cinephile. A cinephile may be materialistic but he does not become blind in believing that there is no world beyond the limits of his own skin.


Today foreign films are released in theatres and Film titles are available in the market, and there are 24hrs satellite TV showing not just Bollywood or Hollywood but World Movies. I’m not even counting the amount of films downloaded over the Internet that forms an important growth of watching films, sharing films along with music in colleges in India. Students across India; consciously or unconsciously watch tons of films from all over the world. And these are just not people who are studying cinema or mass communication, the field is varied. However, then the question arises, does this make them into ‘ cinephile’ or signal the boom of ‘ cinephilia’ in the country, because it's this very lot today that is directing more films than the people who are actually passing out of films schools. They have seen their fare share of European/ Art films and have love for Bollywood and Hollywood. But this trend of filmmakers and the ‘fresh’ cinema of our country that is directly linked to such group of men/women, who come from this diverse field, (some of them go on to study ‘Cinema’ or simply join the bandwagon to make films) cannot be linked to the same rise of ‘Cinephile and ‘Cinephilia’ of 60s and 70s that gave rise to great filmmakers and cinema.


Because, irrespective of the growth, and appreciation of good films or the change in the way films are being made in mainstream cinema, the core, and the stylistic trait or the advancement of mise-en-scene is completely non-existent. Most mainstream fare, if not all, resemble each other and technical competence is not the sign of an individuality that is the core to any form of art that could separate it from lets say a mass-manufactured good which is severely formed out of alimentation; irrespective of the presence and hard work. So having a new Jimmy-Jib, new Panavision, an avid system or latest DI advancement is not improving the quality of our films. These batches of film lovers are very similar to the ‘Idol-worshiper’ in the forms of their neglect and alienation from the history and tradition of film culture, and almost no understanding and co-relation of the medium either Indian or Foreign. When the zeal of understanding our own traditions and culture does not exist, how can one ‘honestly’ express about others or go on to make films in taking a ‘leap’ in defining their own visual language that could be called individualistic.


This is another core reason why there are no film critics, historian or people severely interested in writing on the medium. Because when they are not equipped, how one can provide evidence when questioned, reasons when pointed or admit their flaws. It’s predominately in-between this group of people that a severe habit of snobism and lying exist. India, maybe, the only country in the world where people from all walk of life and different age-groups lie about movies- to appear intellectual or make things so arcane that it becomes difficult to understand and leaves the other confused. This rise should not be confused with any form of cinephilia. I won’t deny that exception exists in all forms, but exceptions don’t make the rules. The last great batches of cinephiles went on to makes movies in both mainstream and regional cinema in India. However, everything is not lost, irrespective of the fact, that we come from a very rigid social framework yet there seems to be a ray of hope. There are three important reasons for the same:

1) We have a thriving film industry.
2) A generation aware of world cinema is emerging.
3) The slow but important rise of cinephile and converts.


Cinephilia or Cinephile is no special term or institution that requires a person to join or be part of, it’s a conscious or subconscious linkage of people who are preparing a long arduous journey of being an eternal student. Who enjoys all forms of movies, who is ready to be informed and be informed, and who slowly builds his own course of aesthetics through writing, watching, programming, or making films. Here direct influence without understanding has no values: aesthetically or technically. Similarly there can be no space for dishonesty.


Cinephilia is slowly emerging from across India. Some of them are converts; people who have shifted their loyalty from the first two brands of film lovers. Here the shift does not mean that one stops appreciating mainstream fare and becoming holed up in the asses of art cinema. It simply means shading of “lies”, “hypocrisy”, “pseudo- intellectual” that so badly engulf the urban class. I myself had to work tremendously hard to bring in a change from the ‘The Bourgeois Gaze’ towards actually ‘loving cinema’, and its then I realized that the world of films I was living and dreaming was fake and unreal. People whom I meet at film festivals, read online, or anywhere are not what they pretend to be. It’s then only this gradual shift to actually ‘loving cinema’ arouse. I could see the different blend of film lovers and differentiate people who call them cinephile or label the tag of film lovers to be some form of ‘rise of cinephilia’. Beside, it’s very few who have been purely in love from the beginning with pure honesty and reflect the same. These people are the hardest to find here.


However, there has been a considerable growth in the last couple of years in the rise of cinephiles. People who enjoy the diversity that it provides and they are slowly picking up its tradition: reflecting and re-learning. Of late, the cinephile have access to all sources of film-watching much like the other group and they are using the Internet to take advantage of the cross-cultural values and understanding of the medium through blogs, magazines and discussion. If this group of people are able to ‘inform’ and help, especially the second group of film lovers in the country to understand the medium better and help them overcome few boundaries than their could be a vital and a strong pool of people who would be talking, writing, and hoping to making changes in the medium. Wherein one could witness the emergence of New Wave of films, writing, and a ‘choice’ for the audience.


It’s is through this very ‘few’ that a new cinema of the country or a new way of looking at our own cinema and beyond could come through. Because it’s through them that one could help overcome the illiteracy about the medium people have; to help them see the difference between good camerawork and bad camerawork; a bad shot or good shot; between the existent of a director and non-existent. The Internet is the first tool in the struggle to break into the large pool of reaching people, because in the last decade or so, films and film writing has become separated into two large pool ‘ academia’ or ‘mainstream’ and its this gap or a ‘ middle-path’ the cinephile must find and reflect. It’s exactly here the Internet is providing the possibility of an alternate from the clutches of editors and censorship.

At the same time it’s providing an important source of learning. In a country where there is no infrastructure for a critical discourse hence the Internet becomes an ocean of learning. India being a place where most cinephile can’t afford a film magazine it’s learning off the Internet that becomes vital. I won’t deny that a number of critical writing on directors or any form of write-up by cinephile lack critical ingenuity, but we can’t overlook the idea of growth and the prospect of establishing a critical school of thought that could be called our own, and not directly influenced by someone else. Yet always be open to learn and improve is vital. Because in the end, it should not be about you and me, but more of, towards the improvement of the relationship one has with the medium. So the more I work toward my relationship the better I get to understand the forms of its existence.

Cinephilia would help India get back into the days it once had or to even wave a march forward into representing the true face of the nation: through form and content. It is the growth, sustainability and constant self-assurance and motivation of cinephiles across the nation that is important; especially for the survival of the medium aesthetically. Else film love and idol worship will continue to exist here in India. Cinema will continue to flourish, but cinephile and critics will finally disappear from the face of the country and cinephilia will remain buried as just another romanticized fantasy.




References/Citation:-

- The Tracking Shot in Kapo, Serge Daney, Senses of Cinema
- The Cinema of Experimentation- Amrit Ganger, Winds from the East.
- The Decay of Cinema: Susan Sontag, New York Times
- Christian Metz: The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema
- Upperstall/ Wikipedia- Profile on Dada Saheb Phalke.
- French Cinephilia: Film Reference

18 comments:

Shashank Kumar said...

well Nitesh, where shud i begin with, first of all its a brilliant write up , its a whole journey of Indian Cinema wrote in such a effulgent and copacetic manner that dunn really words for it mate. I really follow your blog and really enjoy your articles. Keep up the gud job ...
cheers!

nitesh said...

Thanks Shashank, good to know that you enjoy visiting and reading the blog. We all share the same space of learning and discussing.

Yayavar said...

absolute wisdom and love of cinema is depicted from this post.Few will change the course of cinema,they will be not commercial film makers but genuine artists.

nitesh said...

Thanks for your comment vavr, hopefully time will come when their should be a growth and change in cinema in India.

harmanjit said...

Faux cinephilia exists not just in India but elsewhere as well.

And I find that the evolution of one's tastes exists in parallel with one's evolution as a human being. I am not saying someone who appreciates Haneke is somehow a better human than one who likes Karan Johar. Taste is not about what you appreciate, but WHY.

And therefore, one cannot really understand great directors or great films or great art without undergoing an evolution in oneself as a human being. If one's priorities and desires are self-centered and hedonistic (which you call materialistic), it doesn't matter whether one is a fan of Dumont or Guggu Gill, in both cases one will only aggrandize oneself.

In the first case through intellectual aggrandizement, and in the second through a barbaric one.

And one more thing: it is possible to go too far in cinephilia as well. If you have seen the film "Cinemania" you will know what I am talking about. When cinema becomes a substitute for life, it is time to pay heed. A certain naivete is also essential for the medium to be fully effective, and too much of distancing and analysis can sometimes kill the joy of films.

There are crass films about which a sentence is too many. And there are great films about which a sentence is too many.

To be able to be silent inside and appreciate a thing in an unmediated way, despite having a knowledge of the medium, is a skill which is very rare.

nitesh said...

Thank you for your comment and feedback. I’m not sure till what extent faux cinephilia exist outside India, but here it’s pretty rampant and it’s good that you brought this to notice. I agree with you regarding the evolution of a person regarding his taste and how predominately it affects our own liking and appreciation of aesthetics.

Well as Godard said, ‘One can love cinema, but can’t hug and kiss cinema so we should be aware that cinephilia (cine-love) does not turn into obsessive compulsive nightmare. Recently when I was reading Jonathan Rosenbaum words on cinephilia he said, “ A cinephile should be in touch with life”, and aware of his surrounding per se. I think that is as important to write, make films or even reflect on cinema.

However, here is an interesting except from Brodwell on cinephilia and cinemania:

The cinephile displays symptoms of cinemania, as chronicled in the film of the same name. If you haven’t seen it, Cinemania tracks five people who organize their lives around watching movies. As I watched it, some of my reactions ran to “Wow, that is really hard-core,” but every now and then I thought: “Well, that’s not so weird. I do that.” So I see the similarities.
Most obviously, both the cinephile and the cinemaniac show symptoms of compulsiveness. Each one makes lists, checks off titles seen, plans a day of moviegoing with care. When visiting a new city, s/he first scans the cultural scene for what’s playing. Both types of film lover are strict—no pan-and-scan, no colorization, no dodgy projection. Either type might have a weblog or a diary or just patient friends. If s/he has friends.

But I do see differences. For one thing, most cinemaniacs like only certain sorts of movies—usually American, often silent, sometimes foreign, seldom documentaries. Do cinemaniacs line up for Brakhage or Frederick Wiseman? My sense is not.

Cinephiles by contrast tend to be ecumenical. Indeed, many take pride in the intergalactic breadth of their tastes. Look at any smart critic’s ten-best lists. You’ll usually see an eclectic mix of arthouse, pop, and experimental, including one or two titles you have never heard of. Obscurity is important; a cinephile is a connoisseur.The real crux, I think, is this. The cinephile loves the idea of film.

That means loving not only its accomplishments but its potential, its promise and prospects. It’s as if individual films, delectable and overpowering as they can be, are but glimpses of something far grander. That distant horizon, impossible to describe fully, is Cinema, and it is this art form, or medium, that is the ultimate object of devotion. In the darkening auditorium there ignites the hope of another view of that mysterious realm. The pious will call Cinema a holy place, the secular will see it as the treasure-house of an artform still capable of great things. The promised land of cinema, as experimentalists of the 1920s called it: that, mystical as it sounds, is my sense of what the cinephile yearns for.
This separates the cinephile from the lover of novels or classical music. They love their art, I suspect, because of its great accomplishments. Who with literary or musical taste would embrace the subpar novel or the apprentice toccata? But cinephiles will watch damn near anything looking for a moment’s worth of magic. Perhaps this puts cinephiles closer to theatre buffs. They too wait hopefully for the sublime instant that flickers out of amateur performances of Our Town and Man and Superman.
That’s also why I think that the cinephile finds the desert-island question so hard to answer. What movies would I want to live with for the rest of my life? All of them, especially the ones I haven’t yet seen.
Another difference: Fussiness and solitude. The cinemaniac has a favorite seat, even if it’s way off to the side. To secure it, the cinemaniac shows up early and tries to be first in line. Your average cinephile isn’t so picky about where to sit, and so may slip in at the last minute. While waiting for the show to start, the cinemaniac seldom acknowledges others; a book is the faithful companion. But the cinephile is, if not extroverted, at least gregarious and wants to talk with other cinephiles.

Shubhajit said...

Whoa, that's some piece! That's a dissertation to be honest. Nice writeup.

Satyam said...

Unfortunately in India, good cinema is accessible to those who do not understand its importance.either you have that snobish class who wants to keep things to themselves so whatever they say you believe it.
if i am not able to see a particular work how can i comment on that and then disect whatever has been said about the same.
[I still remember this so called Film critic - [after watching Mani Kaul's Nauker Ki Kameez at India habitat Centre in Delhi] she said; it is a film with layers of meaning...]appreciating someone's work is one thing but able to understand & then disect it, is an another skill.
In this day & age of product customization - we can cater to exclusive demands,but when it comes to cinema - it is like a impossible dream.
then there is large group of people who seems to suffer from Obsessive complusive disorder - watching same loops again & again [Formula Films].[almost like a promicious man who wants to change women everyday without making any changes to his moves or technique].

nitesh said...

Thanks Subhajit and Satyam. I'm aware of the intellectuall masturbation that goes around people here. Just the other day I was reading an article by Sobha Chatarjee where she was talking about the Bengali intelligentsia who would pick up all forms of cinema, but when talking about our very own its pretty a sad state of affair.

As for Bollywood and the masala brigade who jump on providing content for the audience and only for them where to began about that.
I have no problem people watching these films, however, I believe, that their should be a ' critical school' in place that seriously helps and informs people. As for the industry here is a quote from Maithali Rao's article on Bollywood Hegemony:

"What Satyajit Ray said all those years ago is relevant in the days of “Dhoom’s” pyrotechnical display: “The present blind worship of technique emphasises the poverty of genuine inspiration among our directors".

Yayavar said...

Films are just a medium to express your views. If you have an Idea which you want to express to someone else, you can either talk about it or write a book or blog or make a film . The mediums might be different but it is the primarily compelling desire to share your ideas with someone else which motivates.The art films were failure for producers and many recognized directors become bankrupt in this venture of film making.The people from parallel cinema were mostly dependent on government support.The common people do not want to project the everyday's reality in sadistic version but an inspiring movies like Lakshya,Chak de India,Swades.Feel good movies like Khosla ka Ghosla and Lagaan were hit due to this reason only.If a common man cannot be inspired by the piece of art,it becomes irrelevant to quantity,although can become a great work of quality.The true artist will be simple and deeper meanings will always be extracted by critics and fans later.The reason of handful of people in cinephile community is economic factor.no sense of art in education system is provided, and lack of respect to artist(mainly folk,the true bharat) by our society.The real work for cinephiles is always to look in other direction for inspiration and inspire people about artistic medium called cinema.

HarryTuttle said...

That's an excellent article Nitesh! Thanks for elaborating your point so intelligently.
"Yes We Can"
"Change we can believe in" ;)

nitesh said...

Thanks for comment the yavar I agree with your sentiments and I know we need to seriously work together if we want to do something important and turns words into action.

Thank you for the comment and appreciation Harry. Your one cinephile cum critic whom I have grown reading online and do so each day and look upto. So thanks a lot this small comment means a lot, espcially to work in a positive direction. :)

Kshitiz Anand said...

Thanks Nitesh for this wonderful writeup. It's oozing with tons of information and points that can be further discussed. Being a photographer, I have always been interested in studying culture. This also led me me developing an interest in viewing films from different cultures. So in the name of foreign cinema, I went about watching Latin American, Middle east, the Japanese, and the Soviet union films.

What is really interesting is that of late I have been watching a lot of movies from the point of view of understanding Indian Cinema. The context that you have established is very nice.

Just the other day I was reading about this other professor in an American University, Rashna Wadia Richards who is writing a book on rethinking cinephilia as a critical approach to classic Hollywood Cinema.I would try to read more on that definitely.
But why I think this is important is because the usage of a similar approach would do wonders for the analysis of Indian Cinema. And I personally like to call it Indian Cinema and not restrict it to Bollywood cinema.

If one were to analyze the most basic of the mise-en-scenes criteria (namely production, colour, lighting, actor's personality, diegetic sound, framing {depth of field, aspect ratio etc}) the definitions on which the movies were initially conceived,one can understand the dominance of one quality over the other has been hugely responsible in the vanishing of the cinephile in the context of Indian Cinema.
I think in the times of the original cinephiles in Indian Cinema, like Satyajit Ray were constantly focusing on all aspects of these parameters.
Whereas in today's context one would think that it does not happen to that extent. In the transitory period where there was the transformation from the pure cinema (the ones inspired by the cinephile philosophy) there were still a few directors who aimed at celebrating Indian culture and Indian values. Gulzar and Hrishikesh Mukherjee would fall into this I feel. The one contemporary filmmaker that I can think of who would still be using some form of cinephile is Shyam Benegal.

What also needs to be done is the establishment of something like the Photo League (artists like Sid Grossman, Lou Bernstein, that happened in the area of documentary photography in the 1930s. This emphasized on using the medium of the photographs to allow the artist for a critical approach to representing the issues, in their own style, with their own personal interpretation on the American Society. Their photographs moved from the initial aim of documentary photography (which was a great medium to capture the great Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s.) to a more contemporary understanding of the American culture and the lifestyle.
This similar kind of an establishment of a cinephile league in the context of revival of Indian Cinema would be truly worthwhile.
India as a society has so much to offer in terms of its rich heritage. The understandings of the lifeworlds as created by people from the gamut of cultures within the country would make a good basis for this league. Contemporary film critics like you with a firm understanding of the theories and history of film should definitely team up.

As Lou Bernstein said, (paraphrased) : Pictures often reveal motives we don't even know about ourselves in our relationships with people. It's for each viewer to decide for himself.

In the end it's all about gaining the sympathetic interest of the viewer in the subject.

I think in early(till the vanishing of the cinephiles, as mentioned here) Indian Cinema, it allowed to do this.

My two cents.

Sachin said...

Quite an extraordinary write-up Nitesh. Breath-taking in a way.

I do think with the exception of a few major cities around the world, cinephilia essentially struggles in most other places. In most North American cities, one would be lucky to have a few theaters that showed anything but mainstream Hollywood. Thanks to the internet, atleast one can get in touch with other like minded fans and even rent films here in North America. I think online film renting has certainly opened things up for me a lot. Previously, I struggled to get stuff from the 1 independent DVD store that stocked up on those previous titles.

I still look forward to the day when the blanket of commerical junk (Hollywood and even Bollywood) will be lifted from the world and each nation can then freely etch its identity out with the result that cinema evolve uniquely in each place. In India, unfortunately like you mention hero idol worship has reached new pathetic highs. It is stiffling. Yet, I am certain that creative film-makers are plenty. Most of them struggle and some give up out of frustration. I see you could not resist mentioning the Jimmy-Jib :)

nitesh said...

Thanks for the valuable suggestion Kshitiz... we hope to work out something on a similar scale.

Thanks for the comment too Sachin,
the Jimmy-Jib is like the new sex-toy of our Industry its exploited to the core without shaping any indivudal vision. No wonder the camera momvents, framing and mise-en-scene resembles from film to film in Bollywood.

Yayavar said...

hi nitesh,your blog is really wonderful platform for the cinema lovers.I will try to make your blog link available for people loving the art and cinema.

nitesh said...

Hi thanks for the initiative yayavar much appreciated.

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