September 16, 2008

Of Bollywood, Hollywood and More


Indian cinema doesn't motivate change, observes author / cinephile M K Raghavendra. "Stories are related in the passive voice, things happen to the characters and they respond. They do not consciously choose to move things on their own as is imperative in Hollywood cinema," says the author who recently launched his book Seduced by the Familiar - Narration and Meaning in Indian Popular Cinema.

So, what attracts Raghavendra to Indian popular cinema? "My research helped me understand nuances like how Sardar Patel's death affected the public perception of national issues and the effect of the Sino-Indian war on film and entertainment ," he explains.

But films that have had an impact on this author are the works of Max Ophuls, Robert Bresson, Jacques Rivette and Luis Bunuel. "I love French films, they haven't taught me about life but about cinema," he concedes.

And foreign language films like Korean are being imitated by Bollywood, he says. "Perhaps, many in the new generation of filmmakers in Mumbai are avid cinephiles," says Raghavendra who was a member of the critic's jury for the Thessaloniki International Film Festival 2007 and the Zanzibar International Film Festival in 2008.

Being accorded the Swarna Kamal as the best film critic in 1996, he comprehends the lines that divide art, cinema, literature and theatre in India . "Popular cinema is unlike anything in literature, theatre and art simply in the magnitude and range of its address," he says.

With cinema and its huge impact on the Indian populace , where does Gen Now stand with respect to Bollywood and Hollywood? "Bollywood films are glitzy and technically very accomplished . The acting is much better now. But the music is worse, the stories are terrible. I personally think the story is supreme in Indian cinema. Bollywood appears to be imitating Hollywood but this is superficial. The impact of the latest Bollywood films appear restricted to fashion or lifestyle statements," he says.

And the current spate of thrillers in Bollywood gains response for being global. "The wickedness of the women in thrillers like Jism and Aitraaz, for example, is caused entirely by their exposure to the 'global' . They may be remakes of Hollywood films but they have been successfully Indianized," says the critic.

Such scholarly observations , and yet, Raghavendra relishes his position as a cinephile more than that of a scholar. "Yet, it is as a scholar of Indian cinema that I will be known," he says.

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