Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The need for a cinephile league in Indian Cinema

On response from this post by a friend of mine, Nitesh Rohit, who does Film Criticism.

Thanks Nitesh for this wonderful writeup. It's oozing with tons of information and points that can be further discussed. Being a photographer, I have always been interested in studying culture. This also led me me developing an interest in viewing films from different cultures. So in the name of foreign cinema, I went about watching Latin American, Middle east, the Japanese, and the Soviet union films.

What is really interesting is that of late I have been watching a lot of movies from the point of view of understanding Indian Cinema. The context that you have established is very nice.

Just the other day I was reading about this other professor in an American University, Rashna Wadia Richards who is writing a book on rethinking cinephilia as a critical approach to classic Hollywood Cinema.I would try to read more on that definitely.
But why I think this is important is because the usage of a similar approach would do wonders for the analysis of Indian Cinema. And I personally like to call it Indian Cinema and not restrict it to Bollywood cinema.

If one were to analyze the most basic of the mise-en-scenes criteria (namely production, colour, lighting, actor's personality, diegetic sound, framing {depth of field, aspect ratio etc}) the definitions on which the movies were initially conceived,one can understand the dominance of one quality over the other has been hugely responsible in the vanishing of the cinephile in the context of Indian Cinema.
I think in the times of the original cinephiles in Indian Cinema, like Satyajit Ray were constantly focusing on all aspects of these parameters.
Whereas in today's context one would think that it does not happen to that extent. In the transitory period where there was the transformation from the pure cinema (the ones inspired by the cinephile philosophy) there were still a few directors who aimed at celebrating Indian culture and Indian values. Gulzar and Hrishikesh Mukherjee would fall into this I feel. The one contemporary filmmaker that I can think of who would still be using some form of cinephile is Shyam Benegal.

What also needs to be done is the establishment of something like the Photo League (artists like Sid Grossman, Lou Bernstein, that happened in the area of documentary photography in the 1930s. This emphasized on using the medium of the photographs to allow the artist for a critical approach to representing the issues, in their own style, with their own personal interpretation on the American Society. Their photographs moved from the initial aim of documentary photography (which was a great medium to capture the great Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s.) to a more contemporary understanding of the American culture and the lifestyle.
This similar kind of an establishment of a cinephile league in the context of revival of Indian Cinema would be truly worthwhile.
India as a society has so much to offer in terms of its rich heritage. The understandings of the lifeworlds as created by people from the gamut of cultures within the country would make a good basis for this league. Contemporary film critics like you with a firm understanding of the theories and history of film should definitely team up.

As Lou Bernstein said, (paraphrased) : Pictures often reveal motives we don't even know about ourselves in our relationships with people. It's for each viewer to decide for himself.

In the end it's all about gaining the sympathetic interest of the viewer in the subject.

I think in early(till the vanishing of the cinephiles, as mentioned here) Indian Cinema, it allowed to do this.

My two cents.

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