Wednesday June 20, 2018

Cinema and protest: Dadasaheb, Golden Lions and FTII

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By Ishan Kukreti

The Government of India has the power to make decisions, decisions it feels are right. However, one of the beauties of democracy is that it leaves a window open for the voice that disagrees to penetrate the Parliament and reach the government.

Students of FTII have been trying to reach to the authorities through this very window since the last 30 days. Appointments of Gajendra Chauhan and other four members of the faculty according to many is an act of political back-scratching done to forward the government’s saffron ideology.

Saffronisation

The present government has been placing people with ideologies congruent to its Hindutva agenda. Censor Board, Indian Historical Research Institute and FTII are some of the examples. Though this is a common practice among State authorities, the resistance faced by NDA in doing the same says a lot about the general acceptance or non-acceptance of its ideology. 

The scope of cinema as a tool for propaganda and consent manufacturing was well established by the end of Second World War. Nazis had used it and the Soviets too reaped its benefit. Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise that the independent Indian government brought the industry under it with the creation of Bombay Board of Film Certification and the Indian Cinematograph Act, 1952.

The struggle of FTII students is the resistance of a nation refusing to be indoctrinated, to swap their history, culture and values with something they do not agree with. And as free thinking individuals and believers of freedom of expression, it is quite obvious that they have taken the lead in this movement.

Cinema and rebellion

Since its inception, cinema has been a major voice of protest; often serving as a platform for the dissident. Films of the silent era made by Dadasaheb Phalke, Sahala Shah and S.S. Vasan etc. had a strong nationalistic element attached to them.

Alam_Ara_poster,_1931Talkies (movies with sound) which started in 1931 with Ardeshir Irani’s Alam Ara had a similar note of criticism. Films also touched on social issues like caste,  child marriage, inter-caste marriages. The cinema of Prithviraj Chauhan, Franz Osten and Bijon Bhattacharya among others was nothing less than a sustained critique of contemporary reality and a ceaseless effort to improve it. 

 

Cinema in independent India

The spirit of rebellion that is an intrinsic characteristic of many artists has always worked as a check to the progression of societal development.

As a nation whose memories of oppression are just 70 years old, there are sections which have not exchanged the rebel inside them for something adulterated or watered down.

It was with this conscientious attitude that the Indian cinema created masterpieces reflecting, in great depth, the human condition of the newly independent nation. Filmmakers of the independent era like Ritwik Ghatak, Satyajit Ray, Chetan Anand have been hailed amongst some of the finest Indian filmmakers. The cinema they created deconstructed social reality to make it more personal.

Ray, who won a Golden Lion at Cannes, had said, “The only solutions that are worth anything, are those that people find themselves”.

Unsung genius Ghatak believed that cinema in a society cannot be based on a void, it has to belong, belong to man.

Their works have also been reflective of their beliefs. Most of the cinema of the time, be it Neecha Nagar (1946), Pather Panchali (1955) or Nagrik (1952) pensively ponders on the immediate issue of the then Indian polity and poverty.

Zanjeer, Albert Pinto and the angry Indian

The focus of cinema in India under Mrs. Gandhi and her “Garibi Hatao andolan”, however, shows the inseparable presence of state dictum has on the medium. Cinema moved on from the poor. Though it revolved around a general sense of poverty, the fulcrum became issues other than poverty. And gradually they become highly skeptical and sometimes openly defiant of the status quo.

Films like Govind Nihalani’s Ardh Satya (1983) delve into the tussle between the State and the individual, while Adoor Gopalakrishna’s Mukhamukham (1984) and Ketan Mehta’s Mirch Masala (1987) are introspections on the nature of the State.   

When Amitabh Bachhan shot to fame as the angry young inspector Vijay Khanna in Prakesh Mehra’s Zanjeer (1973), he was riding the wave of a highly dissatisfied nation; a nation that did not know how/whether to vent, after it had given its all to end a 300 year servitude.Satya

A cranky, hot headed Naseeruddin Shah in Saeed Akhtar Mirza’s Albert Pinto ko Gussa kyu Aata hai? (1980) or an enraged Satya in Ram Gopal Verma’s Satya (1998) are characters mirroring the shrinking patience of a disgruntled nation.

Globalization, cinema and struggle

The floodgates for the creation of a consumerist society which were thrown open by the Privatization of the Indian economy had a profound impact on the cinema too. The larger than life picture that films like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam (1999) generated and their appeal to NRI audiences were results of Globalization. ddlj2
However, the anger that was so palpable in the cinema earlier was not lost. Films like Kamal Hassan’s Hey Ram (2000), Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday (2004), Rakesh Omprakesh Mehra’s Rang de Basanti (2006) while looking back with nostalgia at a bygone era, made a clear and biting statement, bordering on a warning.

Now, as for the first time, a government with a different ideology has secured a majority in the Parliament. efforts are afoot to streamline the biggest propaganda machine in the nation for its own benefit.

In this round of the political chopat, the votes in the next general elections along with the future of the Indian cinema are at stake and the only ones defending the latter right now are the students.

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Harshvardhan Kapoor: No Interest In Forming Opinion About Anything

The treatment of the film is very different

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Harshvardhan Kapoor No Interest In Forming Opinion About Anything
Harshvardhan Kapoor No Interest In Forming Opinion About Anything, flickr

“I am someone who is very comfortable in my own world and I know it is not a good thing. I really do not take much interest in forming an opinion on anything political because I am not inclined to that,” Harshvardhan told IANS.

Having grown up in a family of film stars and producers like father Anil Kapoor, sister Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, uncles like Boney Kapoor, Sanjay Kapoor as well as cousins like Arjun Kapoor and Mohit Marwah, Harshvardhan has seen success and failure of the entertainment business from close quarters.

Is that the reason why the end result of the film does not bother him much and he is rather focussed on the process of filmmaking?

Harshvardhan said: “No, that is not true… I do get hurt. When my debut film did not work for most of the people, I was upset but do we really know how to control the fate of a film?

Jacqueline Fernandez and Harshvardhan Kapoor
Jacqueline Fernandez and Harshvardhan Kapoor. flickr

“All we can do is put on hard work. In a year, only 10 films get huge success at the box office out of so many films releasing in India. And what is the definition of success?

“From childhood I have seen, there are films that are counted as most successful film and in two weeks, those films went off the people’s memories. On the other hand, there are films that didn’t work commercially, but people cherish them even today. So what really a successful film is?” questioned the young actor.

As for his “Bhavesh Joshi Superhero” — directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, he believes it has a quality of being relatable to the mass audience.

“The treatment of the film is very different. It is modern and cinematically rich. The inspiration of the core character may be drawn from the angry young man era of our Hindi cinema, but the feet are very much in today’s time.

“It is a realistic film and not a larger than life superhero film. I think the content of the film is quite accessible to the larger audience unlike my ‘Mirzya’,” Harshvardhan said.

The actor believes that the definition of the superhero is changing in Indian cinema where the story of common man is getting celebrated.

“It is the story of a young guy who was leading a regular life with a lot of complaint about the system that we all do, but we really do not do much about it.

“Then he finds himself in extraordinary circumstances and decided to make a choice… a very brave choice that a regular guy will not attempt to do. I think that’s what makes him a superhero.”

Mirziya, Harshvardhan Kapoor & Saiyami Kher
Mirziya, Harshvardhan Kapoor & Saiyami Kher. Flickr

For the film, Harshvardhan went by the script and the director’s vision.

Also, being a formally trained actor, Harshvardhan’s process of immersing himself in a character is a combination of method acting and personal life experiences.

“To bring a certain emotion in a scene, I do not look out for others’ examples, but my own life experiences. Of course, I cannot live life like that character in the film, but in my personal life, I must have experienced something similar.

“Another important thing we have to keep in mind is, in film shooting, we do not shoot the story as sequentially as the audience watch on screen. We might shoot the climax at the beginning of filming.

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“So when I am performing a scene, I try to understand what the story wants to achieve through the scene. I also use my sense memory.” (IANS)