Thursday, May 7, 2009

Poltical Cinema- Delhi Cinephile Meeting



The Cinephile Meetings in April did not take place across India due to several factors. One of the prominent reasons being that, most people are busy with their college exams or don’t have an hour to spare. People don't have time to dedicate one hour of their lives just for one given Sunday of a month. I guess everyone has their own lives and priorities, and cinema definitely is not on many list of undisputed agenda to discuss and talk. Or the most valuable question people ask- " What will we get out of this?"


While many people live in the disillusionment that making films(and their masterpiece) will solve all the problems of Indian Cinema. And discussion and writing on cinema are pure thrash. And this is the same branch of people who tend to forget that they will need someone to champion their film and somewhere to show their film. And when both these groups does not exist or fit in the current state of Indian cinema culture ‘Their dream masterpiece will die even before it’s born’. First one needs the foundation than only skyscrapers are possible, its pointless to dream from the top to bottom. Until we don't co-operate across platforms on grass root level to change things nothing will ever move here.

We need to co-operate and hold hands and that is the only way things will move. A new nomenclature needs to be developed. One of cinema, a language of expressing our desires, our stories and our commitment for change that should start from us and then move outward, so for every film in India that derives its source of inspiration from clich├ęs we should strive for new stories. And I'm sure every Indian who reads this post knows that we have many untold stories and a culture and tradition so rich that that it would take a person to be reincarnated at least a seven life time to even touch one aspect completely.

For every film in India where the camera is dead- The camera needs to wake up, it needs to move like it does in an Max Ophuls films, or it should remain at a distance like it does in a Tsai Ming Liang films. It’s not just about the nature of content; it’s a also about the nature of film camera and the questions it can raise and bring to a film- a certain relationship that can be developed- a protest-a nature to move away from what has been done till death. It’s important, and it’s more than needed. Because the further we go the more local we become and it’s through these stories closer to our heart and mind new images and new criticism in India will develop. And for that an all out getting together is the only key to survivial for anyone who dares to defer from the basic notion of cinema in the country.

This month has been invaluable in weighing the pros/cons of the overall structure of such meetings and the development of a culture of cinema in India. I also realize that no form of online interaction, discussion can seriously replace the power and bonding that one can develop in the course of meeting people. For us, this is an important step, and will continue to be so (to push for a print journal and establish nation wide underground screening hubs) to really become relevant and affect the Industry that we seriously dislike.

Nonetheless, the meeting took place and although a little less fiery than the last two it still was a thrilling experience. Personally, with every ‘Cinephile Meeting’ there are growths in different areas for all of us who are involved in this endeavor. Starting with the understanding of organizing an event and learning about the ideas of cinema and life that cuts across different ages groups and social structure of people who come for these meetings.

The current Cinephile Report Part-1 is written by a leading Social researcher and Media sociologist in India who attended the meeting. Although, what she writes is not necessarily what we did discuss. But for me, it’s always interesting to know how facts sometimes are misinterpreted and over analyzed at the same time. Yet, it’s always liberating to listen, and read such a viewpoint and this is definitely an interesting read. It’s always important to have people who disagree with us but the fact we have so many that- it make the whole thing even more amazing.


This month the same topic will be carried forward for the Meeting to be held in Delhi. While in the rest of India it would only begin when exams ends and people are free to talk about cinema.



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ISSUE No-3 coming soon

pic source- Two men place a hammer and sickle symbol outside the Cochin Communist office during an election campaign.

(Photographed while on assignment for, but not published in, "India: Fifty Years of Independence," May 1997, National Geographic magazine)
Photograph by Steve McCurry

5 comments:

Edwin Mak said...

The scale and significance of these elections interests me, Nitesh. I wonder how faithful to the situation is the Brit media in its portrayal of the communist movement's disruption of the process?

Do you envision an Indian cinema of militancy? Or, is it that politics exists as a hindrance to its growth? Perhaps this is a false binary of sorts, forgive me, but I am as curious as I am naive in these matters.

nitesh said...

Thanks for the comment, Edwin. Today was one the last phases of elections in India and in another ten days the mandate will be out. I'm not sure how faithful British Media is regarding highlighting issues pertinent to the naxalite movement across India. But it’s only when the news is good enough for Indian Media their movements are reported. For eg- A couple of weeks back, naxalites(maoist) who are not supported in any ways by the national communist parties of India had hijacked a train to stop people from going out to vote, so they did make the national news this time around. However, the issues of naxalism is something that media is not seriously bothered in reporting or talking about. Although, it’s growing at an alarming rate across different states of India. And it seriously needs attention.


I personally feel that the current establishment (mainstream cinema) has a stronghold on every aspect governing the lives of Indians. From electronic media, print and movies we are fed the same thing in a viscous chain of cycle. And interestingly most superstars and film fraternity are closely related to political establishment or practice it themselves. What is interesting to note that in both cases it’s difficult for people to really break into either of the fray if they don’t belong to the establishment or their self appointed governing bodies? Esp in Politics the seeds of youth gaining experience entering took a blow when during the tenure of the Janta Party(1977-1980)the youth organization through which the very leaders had joined were de-functed.

So when the nature of the establishment and its are so closed there is no choice for growth and co-existence for any form of alternative cinema- writing, film making, distributing in this country. Hence, its only when we join hands with different youth groups that cut across India to start some form of underground movement that things can change.

The premises of such a movement definitely based on an idea of co-operation that would eventually allow us to cut across different boundaries that governs and control filmmaking and its different avenues of promotion.

This is the only way where I see we can grow in small but important steps for democratization of Indian Cinema that is largely governed by families (nepotism) and not by talent of individuals.

Edwin Mak said...

Thanks for such a thorough and generous response Nitesh it is much appreciated.

It sounds, at least at the surface, like politics at the level of general governance remains at a distance to the issue of non-system filmmaking. I claim this since the stronghold (absolutely the correct word) of the mainstream continues to grip the viability of independent filmmakers in other societies supposedly free of political tension such as that currently in India. The minimum autonomy for independent film, I believe, can only be gained effectively by forceful initiative, and creation of its own subjectivity. This is in opposition to campaigns attempting to sway influence from the existing mainstream and system film. If there has been a lesson to be drawn from the inception of China’s sixth generation and new documentary film movements (NDFM), it is precisely this: eventually, even the mainstream depends on the emergence of that which subverts it, antagonizes it, in order to refresh itself, and ultimately assimilate. Recently I couldn’t resist putting Jia Zhangke’s essay Images That Cannot Be Banned up at UC, because it gives such vivid first-hand account of this process, blow by blow. Needless to say, I recommend it.

How accessible are DV cams and software? I cannot think of a better in-road for an underground to emerge than investing in their logistics. The wider and more freely available DV/miniDV/HD equipment are, especially in communities that pool these resources the greater the chance for an autonomy to arise.

nitesh said...

First of all thank you for posting this wonderful essay, Edwin. I wanted to ask you in the earlier comment regarding the Chinese Underground and Independent scenario so this article seriously gives an interesting glimpse to the era. Jia Zhangke’ Platform had an enormous effect on my life and when I read this piece I can so easily see the parallels that we all are working towards here in India.

Although not like the Chinese internal screening, but the screening and talking about foreign films even in India at a certain quarter was part of a very closed intellectual circle. This aspect is still dominantly seen in the Film Societies across India and different groups of cinema.

People who once joined them to promote and talk about good cinema today control it like how a dictator would and are not ready to leave or allow fresh blood to enter inside. Plus it’s the whole arena of Pirate films that gave everyone the accessibility to foreign films. In Jan this year, when we were knocking the doors of various embassies and talking to people to do something (like organizing screenings) and other stuff. No one actually gave us a damn. Neither did we have money or contacts.

Eventually we broke the jinx with the help of the Iranian Cultural House and they gave us a chance to programme films. Interestingly, here we meet people who were part of various Trust/ Film Societies in India who for years did not do anything. When I straightaway told them that they too were to blame for the death of film culture in India and neglect things. He simply resorted to saying; we have set this, set that. But when we pointed regarding lapses, he simply stated “That the older lot are not ready to leave their comfort zone”. And are happy with how things are functioning. Which was clearly sad, after all, it was the same society Satyajit Ray and gang set up to promote films and talk about it and it was their endeavor in the early years that “ Bengal” till date boosts about that culture.

It’s true that to an extent there is no political interference in the way an independent filmmaker would begin working, but the problem again creeps in at the level of censorship (government and mainstream sympathyizers and distribution. Although, the issues of Indian censorship are not much talked about elsewhere but it’s really strict. And through the history of Indian cinema it has played an important role in shaping what we see and what we don’t. And only with the wave of globalization in the late 90s they have slightly changed their orthodox views. So this is where we do need an underground hub.

I completely agree that we need to create our own setup everywhere. Initially we are aware that an access to equipment is the most important thing. So currently one of my friends who owns a small production house with an access: HDV Camera, AVID system is supporting the whole thing. I’m sure in time to come we are gonna invest more in this interest to completely have this setup in our disposal. Because this way we will try be out of the clutches of spending too much money on technical issues.

However, initially we working with a different setup, like I’m supporting friends as Producer for their short films. While our sister body Cine Darbaar is working on laying the ground work for introducing Cinema through various sections of the society: schools, colleges, film workshop and etc. And at the same time the journal Indian Auteur, that we soon goona distribute Xerox copies across all our festival and other screening works.

And I think, if we are able to at least push on with our plan for a year and go on working on what we doing- one group part of screening, one group website, one group producing. A definite change would be seen even in a small way by next year

Edwin Mak said...

And I think, if we are able to at least push on with our plan for a year and go on working on what we doing- one group part of screening, one group website, one group producing. A definite change would be seen even in a small way by next yearI have only admiration for such a constructive vision and action. And how fascinating it will be to see the change you anticipate! I shall follow this news with great interest, Nitesh.