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100 years of Indian cinema

100 years of Indian cinema
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Highlights

100 Years Of Indian Cinema. Indian cinema came into being a century ago with all the attending baggage of Indian ethos. For one thing, it had no Simon von Stampfer, D.W.Griffith or Charles Chaplin, the pioneers of world cinema.

In 2013 also, the Indian cinema is inconceivable without the major supportive role of music. It has since fortified its place in the media. Sometimes music plays the most important role by default, thanks to stalwarts like Naushad, C.Ramachandra, Subbarayan, K.V.Mahadevan, Ilayaraja, A.R.Rehman, Lata Mangeshkar, Mohd.Rafi, Ghantasala, P.Susheela; this list is endless.

Indian cinema came into being a century ago with all the attending baggage of Indian ethos. For one thing, it had no Simon von Stampfer, D.W.Griffith or Charles Chaplin, the pioneers of world cinema. But it had a unique fortune of having a visionary, inventor and, importantly, a nationalist film- maker Dada Saheb Phalke.

He had to start learning everything by precept, be it a moving film, aperture of camera lens or cutting the film on the table. It is a strange irony that a visionary almost became blind in the process of making his first or India’s first movie ever, Raja Harishchandra (1913)

In the labyrinth of a media coming into existence on its own, two great institutions aggressed into it through backdoor because of its limitation at that time. That was theatre and music. In these 100 years, the filmmaker is slowly coming to terms with his own voice dispensing the trend of being theatrical, while music has become the mainstay ever since.

In 2013 also, the Indian cinema is inconceivable without the major supportive role of music. It has since fortified its place in the media. Sometimes music plays the most important role by default, thanks to stalwarts like Naushad, C.Ramachandra, Subbarayan, K.V.Mahadevan, Ilayaraja, A.R.Rehman, Lata Mangeshkar, Mohd.Rafi, Ghantasala, P.Susheela; this list is endless.

While a film need not always be realistic, even realistic movies had their share of unreality of a hero and heroine running around trees singing blissful melodies, or a heroine shedding tears to a soulful number of Indian nightingale Lata. And then the theme. Melodramas have been the soul of Indian cinema and the protagonist took several avatars, but the basic formula remained the same.

Where else can we find a tailor-made melodrama except in our mythology and ancient lore? It is a highly organized treasure trove chiseled and fine-tuned and the film-maker never missed the target in drawing any number of permutations and combinations from this legacy in the last hundred years, always aiming at box office and almost every time hitting the bull’s eye. The first ever Indian cinema by Dada Saheb Phalke was the best-ever stereotype of melodrama, Raja Harishchandra.

While the pioneers of Indian cinema were busying themselves in inventing ways to adapt a new media to Indian conditions, they had a welcome compromise with regard to the content on the celluloid. For the first Telugu movie in 1931 (Bhakta Prahlada) stage artists were invited to perform before the movie camera. The songs and poems were rendered as they do on stage while a harmonist played the instrument outside the field of the camera.

Eventually they groped for the filmic content with the available experience they had at hand. Slowly dialectic presentation took the place of the didactic themes, while representative characters gave way to reflective characters. The rebel, anti-hero, even a revolutionary took the centre stage. The film has become a poser, a teacher, campaigner and even a pamphleteer!

With the television finding its way into the drawing rooms, the small screen sounded the death knell to its parent for a while. What is the way out? What can be the alternative entertainment that ‘cannot’ be served on the small screen, but confined only to big screens? Spectacle. Vista vision, 70 mm, cinemascope, 3D- spectacle that cannot be captured on the idiot box at home came into existence.

And the digital technology, graphics, mind- boggling manipulations of the visuals hit the big screen. For instance, a stunning scene was made in Hollywood when Forest Gump meets the then American President John F.Kennedy.

Lately, with the ever-changing tastes of the audiences, and in the materialistic world, the film-maker is more anxious to feed the nerves of the viewer than his soul. Gone are the days of Sound Of Music, Ten Commandments, Chandralekha, Tyagayya, Avvayyyar , Vipranarayana. The stunning visuals, nerve-wrenching ‘spot interest’ have become the order of the day.

Gone are the days when the filmmaker was anxious to integrate instruction with entertainment. He used to engage the viewer keeping his well-tuned cultural ethos in its place. Not anymore. He has since started wrapping the ‘film’ in a saleable package. It has become a consumer product. The film, unfortunately, is also a commercial enterprise. Hence the film viewer is making demands on the filmmaker.

Selling the product has become the first criterion. The filmmaker is anxious to please the consumer. Dada Saheb Phalkes and B.N.Reddis, Shantarams took the backseat and the ‘businessman’ presided over the enterprise and entertainment has become his forte. This has been the global trend. Ben Hur and Mayabazar gave way to Jurassic Park and Chennai Express.

However, there are some outstanding filmmakers in our midst, equally outstanding technicians ventilating their talent at Oscar levels. Sreekar Prasad, the film editor from South India, bagged national award for film editing 9 times. Resul Pookutty received Oscar for Sound mixing for the film “Slum Dog Millionaire’’ and he produced a film called “I.D”, an astounding movie directed by a debut filmmaker Kamal K.M. for whom we gave the Gollapudi Srinivas National Award this year.

A recent epistolary romantic film “Lunch Box’’ featuring Irfan Khan and directed by another debut director Ritesh Bhatia is nominated for this year’s Oscars in the foreign film category. And then who can forget “Midhunam’’ by my good friend Bharani?

Obviously two different genres have come to stay in the world cinema, mainstream cinema and art film, not by choice of the audiences but by choice of the entrepreneur.

Indian cinema, nay, the world cinema is at crossroads with unimaginable ‘genius’ on one side and the businessman’s yearning to reach the purse strings of the viewer on the other side. But when ‘business’ outweighs ‘art’, the taste and good theme will be the casualty.

(gmrsivani@gmail.com)

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