Kanishk Singh, a voracious reader and an impactful writer who is also a 4th year B.tech student at JIIT Noida willingly obliged to write for us on the scenario of Independent cinema in India.
A lonesome woman walks around her house observing everyday affairs with deep fascination. A boy saves money to take his drug-addicted friend home. An old man struggles with the dilemma of leaving his home after the Partition. A middle-aged widow opens her doors to the world of love and glamour.
Such were the stories of the Parallel cinema of last century, where films were made with passion and zeal, projecting ordinary Indian stories but with extraordinary ardour. These stories had depth, dealt with reality and were made by filmmakers who did not stop short to turn every stone and develop new cinematic methods. Now, after a long dud of badly written and filmed movies, a new plight of directors have started to take over the Indian cinematic industry, and they united form Indian New Wave or Indian Independent Cinema.
At the helm of this movement is Anurag Kashyap, also known as the poster-boy of Indian art cinema. Though, other than That Girl in Yellow Boots (2011), Kashyap himself never really made a core independent art film. His films are more of a fusion between what we, the general audience, have experienced cinema and the originality of the stories that he wishes to project, taking enormous influences from foreign films. But he sure does support and publicise films that have a similar inclination of telling variety of stories and exploring the cinemascope. Now he has transferred his producer’s cap to Guneet Monga, 29, who is bringing about even more ingenious ways of producing movies, example, making one with half the budget raised from Facebook users’ generosities.
Also here the term ‘independent film’ needs to be solidified, as an essential independent film in the west means one without the funding of a major production house. But as in India, movies are mostly produced by people and not production houses, ‘independent film’ here is liberated at the virtue of thought and not narrowed by trends or fads. And such unconstrained films are hitting the box office relatively more than perhaps just two years ago. All kudos to the innovative marketing strategies.
Ship of Theseus (2013), an Indian movie, digitally shot, that went to several film festivals collecting accolades and even made it to a list of top all time influential movies, had planned to release only in 5 cities in India. At the end of its overall run, it had ended up getting screened in a total of 37 cities. How did that happen? All because of internet advertisements, viewer surveys, successive step-by-step distributions and, perhaps, having a promotional face of a known star, Kiran Rao. Such is a single case of an unconventional movie getting released. There are many, and many more to come. Even long-awaited movies like Shahid (2013) and Peddlers, who were made a while back but couldn’t see light of day as they were not mainstream, are getting released.
A part of the New Indian Wave is the plethora of actors. Earlier, perhaps even five years before or so, entering Bollywood was deemed lucky for a few select souls. They needed to have a face of a Greek god/goddess, toned figures and were to compromise on their acting sides, in many cases leaving all of it altogether. But now, even a person from no acting or modelling background can enter the industry, if he/she has the capability to explore and nurture their acting skills. Taking the example of Huma Qureshi, she is a typical Delhiite without a slim figure, or a face that wouldn’t really stand out in a crowd. But because of her theatre background and acting methods, she landed up in some notable movies and gave far-out performances in Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) and Shorts (2013). Like her, there are hoards of actors who are now getting opportunities to enter Bombay, and not remain limited to exploring theatre. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is one such man, who because of his blowzy and not-so-good looks was always undervalued in the industry. And that too since the 90’s. But since last year when he got exposed to general viewers via Kahaani (2012) and Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur, his demand as a lead actor has increased and he has even signed a few of them. Not only has these movie brought in actors in the industry and not stars, they have even compelled some of the established stars to check their ground. Who would have thought Sonakshi Sinha, one such star who always dances and fools around in the senseless and foolheaded Masala films (They even have a name for such movies, can you believe that?!), would give a performance skin-deep into her character in Vikramaditya Motwane’s Lootera (2013)? In Bombay Talkies (2013) we saw Rani Mukerji play a sexually deprived woman, who finds out that her husband was gay. Almost every other day we hear news of a rooted star signing a film of arty endeavours. Such sweet is the metamorphosis.
Though actors do help in making the movies known, it is basically the profound scripts that pave the way for the seal of a good film. Be it exploring the dark and gritty corridors of Delhi under the background of male prostitution in B.A. Pass (2013), an adaptation of Mohan Sikka’s The Railway Aunty, or exchanging love through letters with the help of Bombay’s dabba delivery system in The Lunchbox (2013), good scripts have known to attract viewership. And viewership means money. We have progressed as a country, and so has its citizens. And because of this combination of growth and exposure, we now see movies from all over the world, which in turn drives us to search for such vivid narratives and experiences in our homeland. And thus the sales of the so called ‘different’ movies shoot up, which in turn fasten other such cinematic projects.
Change is eminent and it for sure will happen. On one hand we have many over-the-top mindless ‘entertainers’ (I wonder how they entertain) picking up numbers at the box office and on the other we have unique plots, graphic experiments and sturdy performances forming stories that reside in your mind long after you’ve seen them. Both types of films are on the rise, and it will be interesting to see which of them die down. With new age actors like Richa Chadda and Irrfan Khan and fervid directors like Ritesh Batra and Ajay Bahl, the second side does seem to weigh extra. Though we all do hope that murder of cinema doesn’t happen, but in this unpredictable country where Narendra Modis and Asaram Bapus reside together, nothing can be said for sure.