Indian film

Bollywood – factory without competition

Even though many of European praises for the author of a three hours long Indian
musical are mostly seen as preconceived provocation or a reflection of a
critic’s weird taste, still we are talking about respectable cinematography of
the world

After Mira Nair won the Golden Lion last year on the Venetian Mostra, and
Ashutosh Gowariker (Lagaan) was nominated for the Oscar in the category
of the best foreign film, as if overnight Indian film became the ultimate media
attraction. However, leaders of Indian film like Mira Nair and Shekhar Kapur
realized that India became too narrow for them and joined global author
migrations because foreign producers evaluated their authors’ personalities to
be interesting enough to invest their money in and thus secured them penetration
in European and American markets. On the other hand Indian historical spectacles
and musicals in which mythology, strong coloring, emotions, folklore, pathos and
eccentric usage of dance and music sequences produce an authentic stylistic
unity, in Europe are mostly sentenced to the ethnic ghetto of Bradistan. But
that does not mean that we should stay indifferent to genre conventions of
Bollywood, which long ago snatched away the leadership from Hollywood when it
comes to the speed of production of its celluloid mega hits. Mostly European
praises for the author of a three-hour Indian musical are mostly seen as
preconceived provocation or a reflection of a critic’s weird taste. Such hyper
production has transformed Bollywood stars into the ultimate workaholics of
motion pictures, like the famous Manorama, who in 1985 played her thousandth
role, though not her last (sometimes she parallely worked on 30 different
projects). But, the visual style of those popular spectacles filmed in Bombay
studios can only be viewed as a king-size variation of pop videos, whose poetics
at the same time functions as the ideal marketing tool for awakening of
nationalist emotions of Indian masses. We don’t even have to mention their
treatment of star system. For example, when on one occasion one of the
most famous Indian actors was hospitalized after he got severe injuries on the
set, masses of his fans occupied the hospital building offering to donate him
their organs. Crying girls sent him love letters written in their own blood. And
Indira Gandhi postponed her trip to US, so she could, out of her head in panic,
rush to the hospital to visit him.

This program ignores Manorama’s records, but it reflects a brief history of
Indian cinematography in range from Indian author legends like Vankudre
Shantaram, who shot his first film in 1930, all the way to popular productions
of the last decade marked by Sibi Malayil and patriot melodramas by Mani Ratnam
who was often attacked in media for his anti-Muslim attitudes. We haven’t
forgotten the respectable Ritwik Gathak, convinced leftist and dissident, one of
the few Indian filmmakers of the older generation whose work could compete with
that by the great Satyajit Ray, with the only exception being that his humanist
handwriting was much more furious and obstinate than Ray’s. Let us not perceive
them only in the context of the ultimate exotic. They deserve much more. (Dragan