Friday, January 16, 2009

THE DELHI MANIFESTO



THE DELHI MANIFESTO


  • Our cinema screen has become an ill-constructed, and conventional portal to a world we aspire of, rather than a mirror, which reflects us.
  • Our emotions are guided by leitmotifs placed deftly, and religious beliefs exploited.
  • Our spirit of inquiry has become dead and we have been reduced to mere receivers in the process.
  • Cinema and television has replaced interaction with imposition of thought. Its thought. An artificial, fake and ill-created thought, a manifestation of our needs to escape ourselves.
  • The medium has become a symbol of cheap entertainment, devoid of any examination of the form, and a victim of our collective need to create personalities, perfect alternate universes, and images of our aspiration.
  • Our criticism has become trivial. Stories take precedent over the intrinsic qualities of the cinematic medium.
  • Our film lovers are snobs, indulging in their wholehearted pseudo-intellectual diatribe, condemning the ignorant, and the ignorant have become so used to a cinema that’s meager that they are satiated with films from the West.
  • Our parallel offerings remain strictly entrenched in the tradition of the mainstream, and hence, are versions of the same, rather than its replacements

We reject a system that encourages the above, despite its realization, and seek:-

a) To incite discussion on the possibilities, limitations and viability of the application of the auteur theory as a critical prism.

b) To use criticism and our theories to both champion and strive for innovation and cutting edge in form, form and content.

c) To attempt a formulation of a pure love for cinema, a middle ground between the pseudo intellect of the snobs, and the ignorance of the unknowing, and attempt to mobilize their film loves to this new ground.

d) To attempt a critical theory that moves beyond the supply of the story and the statistical rating points.

e) To observe, notice, and champion upcoming films, filmmakers, and technicians, who remain obscured in the looming shadows of commerce and a faux parallel cinema.

f) To champion cinema that creates dissonance, repulsion, interpretation, confusion and discussion rather than loud claps, whistles and scrupulous satisfaction

g) To work towards a film love which adopts a middle ground, to reinstate the cinema director to his deserved position, to celebrate Indian cinema of the past and the present, to examine its potential, we propose ''The Delhi manifesto.”


- A Delhi Suburb, 1st Jan 2009


SIGN IN:
-

People who agree and think we are in need of a dire change.
In the way our cinema, our social realm functions, support us.


Leave a comment with your name/profession/country to add to the list and spread the word.

The vote of support is open to the world.



Signatories



1) Supriya Suri
2) Satyam
3) Kshitiz Anand
4) Ronnie Sen
5) Anuj Malhotra
6) Ankit Choudhary
7) Indranil Kashyap
8) Srikanth Srinivasn
9) Nitesh Rohit
10) Deepak Kumar
11)...



73 comments:

Shashank Kumar said...

Full Support to the Cause and endeavor...to the revolution..

Shashank Kumar.

natasha said...

Friends, Roman, Countrymen.Do agree with manifesto and support to the cause.


Natasha Singh.

Jagriti said...

Count me in.


Jagriti.

HarryTuttle said...

Great job! I wholeheartedly support your cause.

HarryTuttle

Abhiroop said...

We do need a common ground...Else we all will be swept away. Support the cause.


Abhiroop/Filmmaker/Creative Head/India

Srikanth said...

The first monolith hath arrived

(Thus Spake Zarathustra...)

Wholehearted wishes!!!

Srikanth

Sumit Mishra said...

Guys the spirit of India is with good cinema.


Sumeet Mishra/CS/India.

Shubhank said...

Its about time...
Count me in. Let me know if you require any assistance, I'll spread the work in Hyderabad and Mumbai.

Shubhank/Video Game Designer/India

John said...

Feels good to experience India and not just BOLLYWOOD.... Bollywood .... and Bollywood

Full support,

JOHN MASHANGVA/STUDENT/INDIA

Yayaver said...

i am in....

Yashodhara said...

Keep it up!Way to go!

Yashodhara Chaudhary

shradha said...

Good luck guys..u r the next generation of the Indian cinema and considering the efforts you hv been taking, i am sure the golden era of cinema can soon be expected..

Shradha
Marketing Executive- Yonex
Singapore

Edwin Mak said...

signed, Edwin Mak.

Suraj Chandrakar said...

vēnī, vīdī, firmado.

Chandrakar.

Avishek said...

heyy. i support it. gud work. all the best....

sushant kaura said...

some one ask me also .
i m also IN!!!!!!!! with all tan,man and dhan (dnt hav nay ) and full support.

Sushant Kaura

Abhinav Nikar said...

...support your cause!!!


Abhinav Nikar/Engineer/ India

Sachin said...

here's to supporting your cause. I would like to mention something even though this may be covered in the manifesto's point regarding championing a director's work. If a worthy film plays in a venue, no matter how small the location or how far it is, an effort must be made to view it. This also supports those brave theater owners willing to take a risk to book smart films. In Canada, I have come across many independent theater owners who take financial losses but still try to book cutting edge work. Although, I am not sure if such theaters exist in Delhi but looking at the film festival lineups in Delhi, there are some worthy films that play each year.

I am thinking of how Henri Langlois started the Paris cinematheque and that venue generated a whole series of film makers and lovers. Thanks to the internet now critical discussion of cinema can be done without having such a location where collected minds can meet face to face but it would certainly help in generating tons of views. Personally, some of the best discussions about cinema that I have had have been at film festivals where a single movie generated a whole range of emotions. It is quite a thing when a few people walk out of a movie and you can have a range of reactions that at times is quite precious.

Sachin, Canada.

Suraj Mishra said...

my vote for the cause of cinema.

Suraj Mishra/India

Varun said...

I agree with many points on the manifesto but just in the way I agree with anybody's viewpoint on a topic I have an opinion about. (Say, I agree with Arundhati Roy's ideas of history and society in God of Small things) but that doesn't explain why I should sign this manifesto.

Is it like 'i like this manifesto...let me sign it'. Is that it? What's the POA after this, if any? And even if there is a POA, why does somebody need signatures of strangers for that? Cinema movements (or improvements) don't start on manifestos...they start with good/adventurous makers, knowledgeable viewers and a strong and able critics group.

Just a bit kiddish, this manifesto, in my opinion...but i have read you and Anuj and Ankit on PFC and that's why really curious to know what's the POA after this.

nitesh said...

Thanks for stopping by Varun. I think you’ve quite forgotten cinema movement start with an ideology/manifesto from French New Wave, Dogme 95 to The Belgrade Manifesto.

The POA is part of the manifesto, what we see, or want or plan do in times to come. The sign is the first stepping stone in showing a belief in what is needed for our cinema and towards our cinema. This will only come from a group of people who are ready to believe in a change and start informing (cinephile), seeing (audience) and becoming a strong and able group of critics or filmmakers or an audience.

We’ve too long waited for our adventurous filmmakers, knowledge viewers and strong able group of critics to come and do anything with the medium. And we don’t want to wait anymore, but act, and the manifesto, maybe kiddish in your opinion, is the first sign of action. Because if we do not speak out now, there will no one left to speak for those who cannot.

Choubey said...

All the best guys...support the manifesto..


Praduman Choubey/India

Anruag Verma said...

Regular reader...and the right time to post my first vote of support guys.

Anurag Verma/ Design Student/ India

shreya said...

heyy!! i appreciate the move and support the cause..
Cheers!!

Shreya Bansal

raj said...

i totally support this ...i m in

mem'o said...

I believe this manifesto will bring much needed change. Sign me up.

Atul Kumar said...

"Yeh pukar saare chaman mein thi, woh sehar hui woh sehar hui
Mere aashiyyan se dhooan utha, to mujhe bhi iski khabar hui."

(There was this outcry everywhere in the garden that lo the morning has come, morning has come !!
When smoke started rising from my nest, I also became aware of this.)


I support the manifesto.

Atul Kumar/India

Utpal Kant Mishra said...

Imp for cinema and criticism, support your cause.

Utpal Kant Mishra/India

mohinder suri said...

The initiative by young cinephiles have already started spreading. Hope the viral spreads across nation..

Best of luck...

Madhu said...

What has begun by the young critics is surely to bring about a change and hopefully we will see the business indusrty becoming a cinema industry with the initiation by you all...

god bless you all

swashu said...

Good initiative, all the best :)

shubhra said...

Interesting and well written, I'm in, hope to see the website soon.
best of luck

Shubhra Sharma

Sahil said...

count me in too!
deriving from realism would mean a trend to wards - Godfather or Dev D, a stop point for analysis. ;)

Neeraj said...

any movment need the right support..keep going people...support in.


Neeraj/India

Juhi Jha said...

the choice for good criticism nd cinema mst exist. to the manifesto!!!.

Juhi Jha/India

Sunil Kumar said...

Finllay people have woken up for criticism in India and something for cinema. Best of luck, and will be following you people's progress.

Sunil Kumar/India

jeevan said...

love the idea and initiative..
way to go....

count me in for that

Mansi said...

i appreciate the efforts made by u.. keept it up guys.. I support the cause..

cheers!!

Mansi Bansal

gudiya said...

I give my full support to the genuine cause that you young people have taken into account....

AT the end just rememeber your duties and responsibilities and honesty towards cinema... and things will happen ..
all the best

Rohan Rakesh said...

Support the initative.

Rohan Rakesh/India

Deepak Kumar said...

Lets bring a change here. Count me in.

Deepak Kumar.

Abhirao said...

Alright! I'm with you guys!

Abhinav Rao /Animation student/ India.

Suraj Prasad said...

M here to enjoy the fruits of your labour.. guys if you really pull this effort, would like to relish the effects and yeah I will try contributing in all possible manner I can.

kdy said...

Thank goodness !!!
Some sane people are still dwelling in this country.
Bravo !!!

Samanyu said...

I support your cause




Samanyu

Trisha said...

Ok, I'm on board.

Ahazo said...

Good job you guys.

Ahana

Rishav Aggarwal said...

U people have a dream, and that is more than commendable to support...count me in!!!!

Rishav Aggarwal/Student/India

Catherine Grant said...

Full steam ahead! And full respect from Film Studies For Free in the UK.

plato said...

well said...
dont have words to say but that's exactly what i am thinking.

plato
amanjit.dhindsa[a]gmail.com

SparroW said...

way to go and just about time too.

signed
suresh

BODHI a.k.a. Maharajadhiraj said...

I don’t know what to make of this ‘manifesto’, I hold the word within quotes because it sounds more like a litany of complaints than a promise of bringing about a constructive change. Everyone who has grown up watching Indian films has at one point or the other has felt as the writers of this manifesto feel but with age and understanding comes a realisation to the following effect:

• That Indian mainstream cinema relative to Western/International is itself marginal, mostly because it is transgressive as it throws to the winds all their normative experience of filmmaking.
• Our need to escape is in fact a very basic human yearning for all that is not but could be. The popularity of myth across the world proves that. Not only are mythical heroes popular (to this day) they also form the backbone of much of present-day (esp Jungian) psychology. In other words what you call “artificial, fake and ill-created thought, a manifestation of our needs to escape ourselves” is actually addressing an area of darkness within you that you’re mostly trying not to see.
• If you’re looking at moving away from “pseudo-intellectual diatribe” of the snobs then please also look at the way you sound… in your rubbishing the mainstream you are also rubbishing the heart-felt critical appreciation of the masses (“ignorant” according to you) who may not have read as many books as you have or seen as much Truffaut, Fellini and Kurasawa as you but he does recognise a good story when he sees it.
• It may be fashionable for you to look for “dissonance, repulsion, interpretation, confusion and discussion” through a film but what about the people who’re looking at it as a means of escaping the trauma of daily existence. Isn’t their need to be entertained as important as your need to be repulsed?
• The problem with our film criticism (and critics) is that it is too West-oriented. They have neither the cojones to stand up for what they believe nor the understanding of their own milieu. Hence as a rule they do what is easy: recyle comment, which in other words means rubbishing what THEY don’t like and applauding what they do.

BTW thank you for visiting my blog… would love to share my thoughts on abstract art with you someday :)

Anuj Malhotra said...

Bodhi

Your basic issue with the 'manifesto' is clearly its disdain for the taste of the mainstream, and disrespect for the cinematic needs, as made by the masses.

Both are assumed, I assure you.

The manifesto or its writers do not wish to express superiority or condescension towards the mainstream or the masses, but to appreciate a clear distinction towards what we deem right and wrong. It is commendable that masses derive joy from the cinema that exists, but that certainly does not mean that we have reached the zenith of its possibilities, or that we need to remain satiated with what we have achieved so far, so as to not explore any other methods of 'entertaining' the masses than making the kind of films we do now.

To escape one's reality is again not the focus of disdain at all, but closing your eyes to it and its examination and to convince yourself that it does not exist is. Again, we are not against escapist fare, but all the mythology that you speak of is not detached from the real world, but a phantasmic extension of it. Escapist fare does not have to ignore reality as our cinema does, and infact, also has the function to smoothen its acceptance.


The need for entertainment is again a very debatable point. Entertainment cannot be seen as a superficial function, and only the end to a process. It is also, infact, the means to the end. People are entertained by a lot of things. Does that merit the embracement of all those methods without any questions asked?

Educated as you are about the medium, I am also certain that your stress on entertainment as being the central function of watching a film does not bode too well. The point is clear enough in its emphasis that entertainment be termed as engagement, and that engagement be attained not through a superficial overwhelming of ostentatiousness and gratituousness, but also by various other means.


I have no idea what the first point meant. Do care to elaborate.

BODHI a.k.a. Maharajadhiraj said...

Firstly, I don’t think there is such a thing as “right or wrong” cinema or for that matter right art and wrong art or right music and wrong music. I’d imagine an artistic/creative enterprise to be a branch stretching out from a main trunk or an emotional/spiritual pabulum… an essential desire to express, to reach out. It is NOT I believe a competitive sport where one is aiming to SCORE or hit a century or reach a zenith. Everyone involved in stretching out his/her branch is doing so according to the best of his/her abilities, exposure, education and backstory. Having said that I also believe that there is such as thing good art and bad art but that is something that can only be judged at the crucible of perspective and experience.

Secondly, I’d like you to give some thought to what you so blithely dismiss as “escapist fare” that ignores reality… This very term is a creation of Western critics who (mostly) don’t have an inkling as to how the Indian mind works… how for the Indian imagination the integrity/reality of historicity, locations, accents, costumes etc are not tantamount to great art. The Indian mind instead realises that they only serve as props and symbols of the larger story, the bigger irony, the greater drama. That is why a mainstream Indian audience will not go hairsplitting if Prague is shown as his village square or a white man is speaking perfect Hindi or Tamil. That is also why it is at ease with the idea of a ten-headed villain or a shape-changing, monkey-faced comic relief or a mighty warrior who is impotent before the character-assassination of his wife.

Of course as a relatively educated viewer I do want realism and gravitas and a toning down of the usual shrillness associated with Bollywood but I wouldn’t rubbish it entirely because it works for a lot of people, and it HAS really come a long way. I therefore don’t find the need to be embarrassed by it any more as I find pride and joy in the works of a Satyajit Ray. Given our size I think there is scope for all kinds of cinema… that is in a way also the beauty of India… to be at home with contradictions.

I wanted to illustrate through my first point the fact that what you call ‘mainstream’ is in fact on the margins of world cinema!

Anuj Malhotra said...

Bodhi

The 'right' and 'wrong' distinction was meant, not in terms of categorising art, but towards categorising the various approaches towards consummating its possibilities.

Again, the manifesto does not discard escapist fare, but an escapist fare which is devoid of any attachment to reality and reduces cinema to a circus/spectacle. Even if a village is set in Prague, there is still a 'village'. Even if there is a ten-headed villain, it is not completely disassociated from the 'real' world, and is the representation/symbol of wrong.


"and it HAS really come a long way."
Again, in what terms? There is no development in terms of how we write our narratives, or how we shoot our films. The development has to be within a context. Which context do you refer to? If it is commercial, or the 'global' context, we do not view it as development of art.


"way. I therefore don’t find the need to be embarrassed by it any more as I find pride and joy in the works of a Satyajit Ray."
That is optimism the manifesto doesn't quite share. And for good reasons. :)

BODHI a.k.a. Maharajadhiraj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BODHI a.k.a. Maharajadhiraj said...

My friend I think there exists no such thing as "an escapist fare which is devoid of any attachment to reality" because every work of art (bad art included) comes out of a context. Nothing really comes out of nothing. It is the handling of the context that makes all the difference.

Let me illustrate this by Gandhi's example... there must have been hundreds of Indians/Africans/Malays who were thrown out of whites-only train bogeys. Some must have reacted by swearing at their evictors, others by lodging a complaint at the local tribunal. A handful of them must have also written a story about it. But it was only Gandhi who made it his life's mission to point out to the British the error of their ways. And we all know what an epic he made out of it.

What I am saying is that every filmmaker is trying to address an issue through his work, while some manage to just about register a ripple in the ocean, there are only a handful who can work-up a storm in it. It isn't really about Indian cinema not living up to YOUR ideals... it is about Indian cinema doing its job... of maing films... well or badly is not my point here.

I would be really interested to see how big a ripple you create after this reductionist grandstanding. And believe me I would be the happiest at being proved wrong.

nitesh said...

Thanks for stopping by Bodhi:-
-I’m reminded of what Ghatak described, “Indians as an “epic-minded people” who liked to be told the same myths and legends again and again, and he viewed this “epic attitude” as a “living tradition”.

-True, there is no right or wrong in cinema there is just a good and a bad film and the difference between them is that of mise-en-scene.

-What we dismiss about the mainstream cinema is inherent to the cinematic medium and the death of that particular form. Reader response is never the same as criticism. The problem here is that everyone has an opinion on cinema just like politics or art. That does not mean readers response is about the medium per se. In a country that does not have single informative media about the medium, it’s no wonder audience love is mistaken to be the only reason for feeding them more of those film, just like the illusion “ good movies” can never succeed without a single distributor promoting something difficult.

-If I talk about your art being crap you will have an evidence to show me it’s merit(intrinsic), and the same goes for every profession, but when one is ready to talk and show about cinema….things fall flat, because then people call in everything to defend the baseless opinion a good sign for their ignorance. So it’s fine till the time you talk about narrative or acting just let’s not pretend one is talking anything about cinema.

-We are just not interested in talking about Truffaut, Fellini or Kurosawa, but Ghatak, Mani Kaul, Buddadeb Dasgupta, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Manmohan Desai, and Sriram Raghvan. Since we are aware that cinema as a medium has a history, tradition culture and genes.

-So it’s not about rubbishing anything “mainstream” but appreciating things for that right cinematic reason.

-The problem is that your might not be aware about some of our people(film critic/theorist) who did champion good cinema they are few(Chidananda Das Gupta, Ashish Rajyadiksha, Maithali Rao, BD Garga, Arun Khopkar, Ray, Ghatak, Shahaini, Kaul, Amrit Ganger).
-Our goal is to champion our cinema and that is the base of our progress (if you didn’t get the second part of the manifesto (I suggest some cinematic reading would help). But we just cannot stand for every third entertainment film whose cinematic identity is non-existent and people love the film. This is a main reason why film criticism never could flourish or grow here, since each time people took a step, there were hundred pointing to the audience’s asses.

-People response is different from criticism. I’m sure you know that. Our duty is to inform, learn, re-learn and grow in the progress. And not to act like we are the godsend men of cinema (this is where psudeo-intellecutal comes in picture) and we have plenty in India. If someone believes we are wrong in championing or informing or helping people see things or ourselves working towards the endeavor, we’re open to knowing the other plausible reason to bring a growth to the cinematic medium in India, else till then, I don’t believe in you’re a prori.


And thanks for the offer to understand abstract art.

Anuj Malhotra said...

Bodhi

I frankly do not understand this continuous invention of new ideas with each comment. You defended the mainstream through its simple attribute of being able to entertain and help provide the masses with an 'escape' route from the trauma of their daily existence, to which I expressed a collective clarification over the issue. And now we divert to a discussion over the importance of small efforts being made, the results of which should be waited for patiently, because only a small proportion of the entire films being made, is consequential. Yes, I agree. But how is this point related to the manifesto? Where does the manifesto convey pessimism over this consummation of the law of probability? It simply questions the current state of cinema that we have.


" because every work of art (bad art included) comes out of a context."
And pray tell me which context or which motivation does the current cinema derive itself from?

"it is about Indian cinema doing its job... of maing films... well or badly is not my point here."
It is our point. The manifesto is concerned whether we make films badly or well. We are not happy with a cinema that just provides cheap entertainment to traumatised lives. We want it to achieve more.
Let us not function on two different planes of argument here.


"I would be really interested to see how big a ripple you create after this reductionist grandstanding. "
This is a redundant argument that reminds me, unfortunately, and rather terrifyingly of another such debate.


Let us not argue for argument's sake, do not feel that you are obliged to send a response. This space dedicates itself to discussion over the manifesto, and issues pertaining to it, let us please keep it till there.

Thanks.

BODHI a.k.a. Maharajadhiraj said...

Well at least Ghatak was an original observer, not like a latter-day quote-collector who chooses to slide the argument to his advantage by an out-of-context quote. Although, I do agree we are an epic-minded people but then who isn’t. Are not the Chinese epic-minded, who despite the Cultural Revolution never forget to idealise their Yellow Emperor? Or the Europeans who still love to be told about their Beowulfs, their Arthurs, their Alexander and their Rome? Even the United States has its Kennedys and Lincolns and its latest legend-in-progress Obama. So when we are all so epic-minded then there has to be something in the human DNA to want to look for an epic. And an epic to me isn’t a work of ‘granditude’ but any story that evokes a shift from the status quo. And I am willing to go anywhere in search of this visionary, ‘different’, empowering, enriching tale. Am not going to sit smugly inside my egg-chair surrounded by the shell of my reading, my genre-libbing and my firstname-familiarity with past masters. Because this kind of attitude is a fill-in for a certain softness (of intellect)that is intolerant of criticism (usually of its own opinions).

I’d also like to know what make you this grand arbiter of truth and beauty in cinema? Aren’t you also just another Everyman with an opinion? Or just because you are an aspiring filmmaker we should etch every word uttered by you in stone? If you feel that the country “does not have a single informative media about the medium” then why don’t you start one that incisively, creatively and with humbling scholarship provide that function. As I see it you’re doing exactly what you’re cautioning us against through your manifesto… creating an illusion of ‘quality criticism’ based on reader responses that I have a feeling mostly comprise friends and well-wishers whose love you’re mistaking for a measure of quality.

If you talk about my art as being crap I will most certainly hug you and ask you to tell me more, not place before you its merit. I fail to understand how your reading or your understanding of set design or lighting or frames or editing or story-boarding or any other thing related to filmmaking makes you a capable critic/theorist (and I don’t mean the daily variety that do little more than glorified précis-writing). At best you are a lobbyist, if not of a Truffaut or a Fellini or a Kurosawa then of a Ghatak and a Mani Kaul. Am not even sure you are aware of the medium’s history, tradition, culture and genes because to me you seem to be living in denial… of all that perhaps falls beneath your cinematic standards, whatever they might be. If you had your way Indian cinema would probably start with Ghatak and end in your own work-in-progress. But then wishes aren't horses...

Anuj Malhotra said...

Bodhi

The inherent misfortune of the proceedings here is rather disturbing. A certain point in the manifesto is recurringly being misunderstood despite repeated clarifications, of which the writer may actually deserve none. No where does the manifesto equate realism with quality and escapist fare with the lack of it. The judgement of the manifesto is not constrained within such boundations, hard as it is for you to understand. There is no disregard for the epic form, and it is depressing that you perceive the phrase 'reflective of the reality that surrounds us' through its literal meaning. What 'status quo' do you talk about? And why are you so emphatic in your need to run away from it? Why is your life so miserable? Cinema, as an artifice, never serves the status quo in any case. Why does anything not reality-based, have to resort to being an epic-form? Why are you functioning, through your presumptions, in two extremities? The 'real' and the 'epic'? Where is the bridge? Where do we state that we plan to judge films based on their status as either of the two? Haven't we stated that a film be judged, purely on its cinematic merits, whether 'real', epic, or in-between?

Your arguments are unnecessarily overwrought with emotion and your presumed responsibility towards the protection of mainstream, and points that do not actually mean much but are mere reiteration of the same, over and over again.

To top it, you make unnecessary assumptions about our intentions as a group, and accuse us of worshipping certain directors, not 'actually' doing anything, that most people who have signed here are our well-wishers and friends? If we had so many friends, we would be rather popular, eh?

Yes, we are lobbyists. We lobby for whatever film we deem good, whether it is made by a B-Film director, or by all the names you assume us of secretly eulogizing?

Do not be so blinded by what you think is accepted by the popular choice. The mainstream exists because its popular acceptance is taken for granted. How are you sure it is, indeed, as satisfying, and helpful, as you simply assume from your room to be? Infact, it is your belief that needs you to go out of the room and evaluate, since we express only what we as a group of individuals believe, but you generalise and append your belief to an entire nation.

Kishore Kunal said...

Been a reader of the blog for quite sometime...and support your cause..
Keep up the good work..my two cents.

Kishore Kunal/ India

Shashi Mathews said...

Looking forward towards good work ahead people.

Shashi Mathews

kirti said...

I support your good cause..
ALl the best

Kirti

Kunal said...

We’re not unmindful of the “mainstream” (I took the liberty of putting it within quotes) at all. In fact, we’re thankful for it because:-

A. It makes us look nice and smug and justified-
If everyone was already doing what we intend to do, why should we intend to do what we intend to do?

B. It is the staple diet-
It subsidizes the distributors, exhibitors (as long as we’re not moving to a completely digital paradigm) and thereby, makes it easier for me (as a symbol for the manifesto signatories) to showcase my film or the film I endorse. We’re happy letting the mainstream being the staple and for us being at the margins as long as both coexist; and the audience have a CHOICE to have that inexplicably difficult to eat lobster, at that ridiculously expensive restaurant if they WANT to. And if they do- then if they have to spend the week eating comfort food at home so they can afford the weekend lobster, so be it- it’s cool

C. Every dog has its day-
Tripe done well has its moments. Each of those immensely successful, beating down the same path, potboilers did have that (subjectively of course) magical second or scene or two- hark back to circa 1997- Karisma Kapur with SRK in her crying scene near the river in Dil To Pagal hai, 1999- the flashback sequence in Sarfarosh- the ability to surprise, even astound!


Let me digress for a while now before coming back to the topic. I think we all agree that 80s was perhaps the worst decade in Indian cinema. And leaving aside a few exceptions like the early, scintillating Mahesh Bhatt and the unassuming brilliance of a Sai Paranjpe, yeah, it pretty much was the worst decade. Jump cut a few years later to 1994. 1994 was an important year in films. No, not only because of Pulp Fiction (and we will again be touching upon QT later) but also because that year Dev Benegal adapted an Upamanyu Chatterjee novel and turned it into a film called, English August. What was surprising wasn’t that the film was entirely in English but that it was successful! Yes, we had had the Roshan Seths and the Victor Bannerjees and the Aparna Sens but those had been few and far in between and lying around the margins in most cases

Therefore, this film becomes more important in retrospect. It also gave India its first multiplex star in Rahul Bose, long before the term multiplex was coined. But that’s besides the point. A couple of years later, a US returned Engineer, pooled in some money from friends and family with some of his own and made a semi autobiographical film that ran for twenty- five weeks in Hyderabad and Mumbai. The film called, ‘Hyderabad Blues’, while being an extension of the English language world and the largely urban and urbane milieu of ‘English August’ was perhaps even more influential than that as it spawned a flurry of similar films with the ‘NRI returned’ theme- none leaving as lasting an impact as HB. Nagesh Kukunoor had arrived. And he’d been to no film school, had no godfathers and was a complete outsider. This complete freak success was later succeeded by more sedate, less personal, less experimental but more polished and sadly, more accepted works by this director. Talking of freaky success, another two years later, we were to see a totally mad film, hovering on the thin line between ridiculous and avant- garde. Bombay Boys, in 1998, was a zany, whimsical look at the Mafioso and the quirky underbelly elements. Together, with Satya, (a film I consider a masterpiece in writing and direction), the immense commercial success of both films dealing with unconventional and dark subjects (Satya influenced several lesser impostors and one could safely say, its effect is being felt even to this day)- This period perhaps, was the zenith as far as acceptability of non “mainstream” films in India is concerned. This period also marked the end of the first wave of the Indian multiplex bandwagon (it couldn’t be called a “movement” since it was too discreet and disparate to be one).

This kind of unassuming, easygoing semblance of a movement got lost somewhere down the line. Cometh information age and we started to filch- right, left and center- internet and torrents provided the ideas done somewhere else, someplace else- results were Shaurya and Aamir and the like- you get the drift. Post Y2K’s most influential film in India has been ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ with its postmodernist language- it has stood the test of time and can be hailed as a classic, what with 8 years since it burst out at the scene. But it was a ‘safe’ film made with stars within quite a lot of the ‘envelope’- too safe to be path breaking. Were we moving towards ‘middle grounds’? Was it desirable? Is it still? And anyway, in the films to follow, we were not even approaching groundbreaking levels in either form or content- it was merely the packaging and the treatment; which were being changed. But still, DCH was good but it came more as an aberration than the norm. Of course, all along, we always had the senseless no brainers (HAHK in 1994 and Gadar in 2001)- lest one forgets. So, one can trace two phases in the independent/niche cinema rigmarole- pre DCH and post DCH.

Now, I’ll link the need (or at least my need of associating with the manifesto’s philosophy- with some of the points, I may not agree fully) of creating/embracing this manifesto with my verbose exposition on niche cinema in India in the past 2 decades- somehow, the pre DCH margin films were more unsafe, more independent and had better content. Yes, the ones post DCH had that much more technical polish- the sync sound, the cinematography and also, the marketing- but one could also discern a regression. We went back to including many of the mainstream ingredients in their ‘offbeat’ cinema, celebrating and acknowledging our ‘heritage’ (read also as reiterative ’givens’ in our cinema) and focusing more on novel treatment than truly breaking ground and conventions. The envelope was pushed so slowly that nothing really got posted. Progress of the “niche”, with the digital age of the last 7 years or so ought to have been superfast but it has rather ploddingly and grudgingly moved on. That’s where the manifesto comes in for me. It seeks to restore the speed, vivacity and overall likeability of niche cinema in India in mid to late nineties. Whether the niche will replace the norm and become the norm itself- we will have to watch this space and see. Judging the manifesto verbatim, without grasping the essence, would be unfortunate. The essence and the subsequent importance IS on action- with critiquing being an auxiliary.

Some action points:-

1. Making films- As for our team, 2 Done 5 WIP at the moment- any movement will need exemplars (persons and objects i.e. films) who’ll stand out and symbolize the notion/movement (eg. beat generation, counter culture, Gen X –ers, baby boomers, etc). We recognize and know that. Since we’ve not been spoon-fed that stage of security in terms of money and infrastructure and opportunities to push the envelope (financiers, anyone?), we KNOW that it is some of us who’ll have to make a sacrifice, DO something and then hope somehow, something clicks- principle of right place at the right time and the floodgates open. We need an El Mariachi, we need a Reservoir Dogs, we need a Stranger than Paradise, we need a Jim Jarmusch in all black, we need a David Lynch in his buttoned up shirt- we need icons to look up to. Some of us, I expect are already on their way to being THE ones
2. Embracing the Digital Medium- it’s a vicious cycle not to do this- so, it’s basically a dissatisfier- i.e. the project feasibilities might fail if this is overlooked- plus, better economies and benefits of scale through forward intergration. Total no brainer. But is any large group doing it collectively? Sadly, no. Not before this
3. Creating an Indian Sundance- Mostly from point of view of large scale distribution (traditional), it is one of the agendas to create a common screening ground/event for such films that well, ‘we’ deem great- Sundance is a good template
4. Creative writing- Planning to develop screenwriters and devising payment scales and contracts for them through the forum or a company floated by certain signatories of the manifesto- an alternative to a Writer’s Guild- and why not?
5. Criticism- Film criticism as a means of information dissemination to as many people. Since films are mostly a personal medium and art (Will be discussing the whys of making films later), criticism may be the one way to reach out to many more, in a more impersonal way. We’re working on a combination of relative grade scale method (Ebert’s two thumbs up) and weighted average method of evaluating films (like the CRAMEL) into film appraisal- the blend of qualitative with quantitative parameters, while giving skewed weight to “conviction” as an attribute- like any other rating/review group, ours will be subjective, but using an appropriate number of objective and informed stimuli
6. Developing Roots- Because a movement, along with the exemplars, also needs believers and some sort of recognition. Simple law of large numbers. Hence the need for signatories- first step to create awareness that we exist. Plus, the forum also helps us in interacting with cast and crew and likeminded people
7. Speeding up the Envelope pushing process- From Kaizan to Six Sigma- from gradual to radical change, for the better

So, we’ve covered the backend and front end of the process called filmmaking (and even the auxiliaries). The production part of course, will depend on the exemplars I was talking about- Watch THIS space for THAT

Kunal said...

aka Ronnie Sen BTW

Adrian said...

The Manifesto is great, add my name to its fervent supporters!

Adrian Martin

folkteller said...

Making manifesto is a great work,but needs several debates (otherwise it will become religious dogma). Then following and interpreting that needs thousand more rounds. Shall we start that? Shall we come together to form our own blogs and join them in to CINEMA LIBERAL? A platform for debate, discussion and comradeship can be made and we can be effective in more than one ways. How about that? Any suggestion?

SatyaVrat said...

Cheers

ramya said...

Add my name
Ramya

Carlo Pangalangan said...

I support this manifesto, it already seems to be working with this discussion going on in the comments. Great stuff, I look forward to the work that emerges from this movement. Signed Carlo Pangalangan

disbranded said...

This is a kind of manifesto we were trying to develop in Kolkata.

One thing that i felt should have been there is - cinema being reduced to a mere product. Thats the most painful situation that a cinephilliac can face...

soumya.
rufcut.

noni said...

with solidarity...

noni