Western audiences have mainly experienced Indian cinema through what is known popularly as Bollywood.

Films structured round song and dance, and full of extravagant action and melodrama. Thus, while popular Indian films follow different narrative and stylistic conventions, they do share the star and genre centred approach of western mainstream film. Since the mid-1970s, India has led the world in annual film production. Although slightly decreased in recent years, the total number of domestic feature films made in 1997 still reached 697. Besides the quantity, Indian cinema is also marked by its great diversity in language and culture. While there are as many as 16 official languages, the majority of films are in Telugu, Hindi, Tamil, and Malayalam. A rather different film experience, usually screened in ‘art film’ venues is the ‘New Indian Cinema’. A movement inspired by Italian neo-realism and at odds with orthodox Indian Cinema emerged in the films of Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen. Satyajit Ray is well-known in the west as a classic director and as an auteur*, [a filmmaker offering a distinctive style and themes]. However, he is not especially thought of as a political filmmaker and indeed he made caustic comments regarding younger filmmakers who were. However, he established the possibility of filming outside the commercial centres of mainstream film. His fellow Bengali Ritwik Ghatak also scripted and directed films in the same period. He has not achieved the international reputation of Ray. But his political and educational work in film has had an important influence on subsequent film-makers. In the 1960s younger directors like Mrinal Sen tackled explicitly political subjects and developed new and unconventional forms for such films. During this period such film production was partly dependent on state funding, including work commissioned or screened by the State Television network Doordarshan. There was also a predominantly urban network of independent exhibitors screening both foreign art films and independently made Indian films. Since the 1980s both these sectors have suffered under the impact of commercial satellite broadcasting. This has reduced the opportunities for independent film. There is a growth in international co-productions, but these tend to be for the international art film market Parallel cinema NEW INDIAN CINEMA At the start of the 1950s, Calcutta became a centre of art cinema with the emergence of the film society movement. Satyajit Ray’s Panther Panchali/Song of the Road, produced with West Bengal state government support in 1955, was an example of a new type of Indian film. Post-independence, despite a relatively sympathetic government enquiry in 1951, the commercial industry was the object of considerable moral scrutiny and criticism, and was subject to severe taxation. A covert consensus emerged between

Satyajit Ray’s world-famous debut. led by the Bengali directors Satyajit Ray. under the aegis of the government’s Film Finance Corporation. of India’s lower middle-class and unemployed. Disruption. 'Panther Panchali'. Radical cultural organisations. India’s emergent art cinema. fulfilling the potential of the radical cultural initiatives of the IPTA. The influence of neo-realism can be seen in films such as 'Do Bigha Zamin' / 'Two Measures of Land' (Bimal Roy. after a phase of didactic political cinema at the height of the Maoist-inspired Naxalite movement of the early 1970s . In contrast to Ray. all focusing on the imperative to create a “better” cinema. such as loss of social status. Perhaps the most outstanding figure of this generation. Sen. about film-making itself. the problems of locating oneself in a new environment. set up to support new film-makers. exploring its inherent distance and disengagement. economic injustices. Disharmony and discontinuity could be said to be the hallmark of 'Nagarik' / 'Citizen' [1952] and 'Meghe Dhaka Tara' / 'Cloud-capped Star' [1960]. showed Italian works for the first time in India. The First International Film Festival. a portrait of father and son eking out a living in Calcutta that strongly echoes the narrative of Vittorio de Sica’s 'Bicycle Thieves' [Italy. 'Calcutta 71' (1972). who lamented the division of Bengal in 1947. active support for parallel cinema. loosely associated with the Indian Communist Party. only really took off at the end of the 1960s. held in Bombay in 1951.marked by the trilogy 'Interview' (1971). had organised themselves as the All India Progressive Writers Association and the Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association (IPTA). and the compositions. The Film and Television Institution of India was established at Pune in 1960 to develop technical skills for an industry seen to be lacking in this field. 1953). this pressure and vocal criticism occurred at a time when arguably some of the most interesting work in popular cinema was being produced. uprootment. realist frame which put a special value on the Bengali countryside. Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen reacted against studio spectacles. his contemporaries Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak set out to expose the dark underside.proponents of art cinema and the state.made two films. The latter had produced 'Dharti ke Lal' / 'Sons of the Soil' [KA Abbas. and 'Padatik' / 'The Guerrilla Fighter' (1973) . is based on many of the themes that engaged contemporary popular filmmakers of the time. However. 1943]. and its impact on the industry can be seen in the work of radical directors such as Bimal Roy and Zia Sarhady. 1948]. as it came to be called. but sets them within a naturalistic. 'Akaler Sandhane' / 'Search of Famine' [1980] and 'Khandar' / 'Ruins' [1983]. the use of sound. Ironically. and the problems entailed in trying to record “reality”. There is something deliberately jarring about the rhythms of editing. was Ritwik Ghatak. and the indignities and oppression of common people are the recurrent themes of this poet of Partition. as if the director refuses . In the 1950s the influence from Europe on Indian cinema was noticeable. where studio sets of street corners mingle uneasily with live-action shots of Calcutta.

At least one film has addressed the relations between the imperial west and India in a political light. 'Zubeidaa' [2001] recounts the life of an actual 1930s cinema heroine who gave up her ... She quite rightly argued that the film was longer on exploitation than it was on politics. The film. but it did focus primarily on the poor and exploited street children of Bombay. only fleetingly visits the slums where the majority live. A similar problem can be identified in the work of Mira Nair. once a Sunday afternoon staple. focuses almost entirely on the affluent middle classes. with its audience. Her 1988 'Salaam Bombay' had definite political limitations. But parallel cinema has suffered a decline. placing the human figure at the edge of the frame. An example of where that exercise can lead would be 'Bandit Queen' [UK/India 1994]. The film explores the impact of becoming an organdonor on a family breadwinner. Only a limited amount is exhibited in the west. dwarfed by majestic nature. a lower-caste woman who suffered multiple rapes but surmounted this to become leader of a bandit gang. Contemporary Indian cinema Bollywood has more than held its own in the domestic Indian market in recent years. He worked first as a cinematographer for Shyam Benegal before he took up direction. Nihalani commented "The essential issue explored in the film is . Shyam Benegal has continued to make films. In 'Ajantrik' / 'Man and Machine' [1958] and 'Subarnarekha' [1952.where technologically advanced societies / nations dominate the economy and politics of the developing societies / nations?. Made by Film Four it dramatised the story of Phoolan Devi. However. Her recent art house hit. a recent film seen in Britain seemed far less politically conscious than earlier films. a writer [now also known for political campaigns in India] published an article titled 'The Great Indian Rape-Trick'.. The film loosely falls into a science fiction genre. Whilst there had been state aid for production there was no national distribution and exhibition network for alternative film.to allow us to settle into a comfortable. He has a long track record in Parallel Cinema. The 1970s were a productive period for such a radical cinema. with many films arising from regional cinemas. in the 1980s the support from the State NFDC and the acess to audiences on State Television came under pressure. One result from such changes has been the gradual reduction of screenings for Parallel films. As Satellite television expanded it challenged the long-running State monopoly in Television. and films with western finance usually get preference. However. offering a dystopia set in Indian slums. which castigated the film." Nihalani's earlier maestro. There is a vibrant independent cinema. This is 'Body' [2001] scripted and directed by Govind Nihalani.. familiar frame of viewing. Because of arguments about profitability and subsidy the focus shifted to funding Festivals and Awards. 'Monsoon Wedding' [2002]. Arundhati Roy. released 1965] he juxtaposes the displaced and transient urban figure with tribes peoples.

by contrast. seems much more like a romantic fairy tale. This instantly reminds one of Benegal's earlier film. . that film included a trenchant view of both commercial cinema and of the way women are exploited in such an industry. However. 197]. 'Bhumika' ['The Role'.career to marry a Maharajah. 'Zubeidaa'.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful