On the topic of ‘Regional Cinema: Beyond Cinema’ on the second day of Ficci-Frames 2007, certain buzz words that were being exchanged throughout were personalisation, customisation, etc. Delving deeper into these insights, it was here that regional cinema found its appeal within a niche audience making it customized in many ways. Addressing the gathering on the topic of regional cinema, Prosenjit Chaterjee, West Bengal Film Industry stated, “It ignites certain amount of passion and is an emotional subject, far too complex to express, but then regional cinema is fighting its own battles and we are trying to get a foothold in the global cinema arena – against all odds.”
Noted actor Amol Palekar moderated the session and was not too happy either about the marginalization that was being witnessed by regional cinema or the linguistic distinction that was more pronounced than geographical barriers. Adding further he stated that regional cinema is categorized as non-Hindi cinema and other than Indian cinema. “It is very distressing that Hindi cinema is getting the status of National Cinema, which is unfair. Hindi cinema is also popularly called ‘Bollywood’ cinema, although many in the Bombay film industry find the term derogatory,” he remarked.
Purely entertaining, lacking in content and originality, the Bollywood nomenclature is the face of national cinema and though Bollywood contributes only 40% share of Hindi films in India, it is poignant that regional cinema is just being trivialized for some vague reason. On the other hand Marathi Cinema is fighting for space with Bollywood cinema as they share the same geographic location and space. South Indian Cinema too is downsized to marginalized cinema whereas North Indian ‘tadka’ is not on the menu of most distribution channels and is not able to sustain its stance. All this is dampening the spirit of Indian regional cinema, it was noted.
There are sporadic facts of Bhojpuri cinema being well-received though and there seems to be some ray of hope here. Parameters of commercialization are not articulated where regional cinema was concerned. Bombay cinema is the only film culture in the world that has been able to withstand, and even thwart, the global giant called Hollywood. Working in a manner that hardly befits its so-called industry status and the recent efforts at corporatisation, Bombay cinema has achieved what even the proud French have failed at – prevent Hollywood from bringing the national film industry to its knees, it was noted.
Bombay cinema – often described as the opiate of the masses in the Hindi-speaking world, and increasingly an addiction even in the non-Hindi regions of the globe – is doing to India exactly what Hollywood has so effectively done to so many countries. Aided by an ever-willing and ever-expanding media, Bollywood has emerged as a threat to the entirety of India’s venerable ‘regional’ film industries.
In a country as diverse as India, cinema has long been a tool to tell the stories of different peoples across the vastly diverse regions. However, the regional cinema has also had a powerful role as an entertainment medium that chronicles the concerns, cultural richness and contradictions of India’s many societies. Infact, it was regional cinema that initially catapulted Indian film to the global stage and its uniqueness is in its originality in content has helped its survival.
According to the delegates, the grey areas of concern are marketing and distribution of regional cinema films and the unequal financial budgets allotted to this category is far from adequate. Another major constraint is renting and distribution in theatres which is very expensive and digital technology is not viable on the grounds of heavy costs involved. Artistic creative expression and commerce are conflicting issues that undermine the growth prospects and regional cinema is grappling with the situation, it was noted.
Thanks to the International Film Festivals like MAMI, Goa Fest and others, regional cinema is getting a platform. Ironically, foreign films have higher reception from Indian audiences than regional cinema ought to have and this attitude needs to be changed. Though Indian audiences and the Government is taking this for granted, it is the indomitable spirit that is inspiring filmmakers in the regional cinema category to work on newer original ideas and try and harness vast pool talent and creativity that is available.
Content, originality and identity are the major factors that will help in the survival of regional cinema in the years to come.