However, most makers of art films in India seem to think otherwise; after the initial struggle these cineastes want their middle-class existence to be fully secured, says Suresh Jindal.
The state being run by their kind favoured this indulgence. The National Film Development Corporation in its earlier designations as the Film Finance Corporation was intended to give young film makers their first chance to make a film without being polluted by the crassness and vulgarity of mainstream cinema.
Suresh Jindal has rightly said that the real trouble started when the FFC folded up and the all powerful NFDC came into being. Thereafter, bureaucratic roles became dominant. In this process, a massive fraud was played on the public with the connivance of the politicians, new wave film makers, intellectuals and sections of the media.
A small group of the people monopolised the scarce resources available, despite the fact that their productions were bankrupting the NFDC. For most of these films despite the claims to the contrary, never recouped their investments. The only recoveries they made later on were from the government bodies like Doordarshan and the ministry of external affairs.
How many of their films found buyers abroad? We have been brainwashed and deluded into believing that tokenism of the Third World representation at international festivals of this cinema implied an appreciation for it. The Chinese cinema made its international debut much later than ours; its success at both the critical as well as box-office levels, showed us our own poverty and delusions of grar Jeer. Those who are regular festival viewers will see the complete indifference it generated among foreign critics.
It is significant that all the purported profits of the NFDC have three sources: (i) the film Gandhi; (ii) the canalising commission that the entire mainstream cinema was forced to pay on import of raw stock and export of finished film; and (iii) the monopoly over the import of foreign films along with the Motion Pictures Export Corporation of America. With the commercialisation of Doordarshan, they got the monopoly over telecasting mainstream film-based programmes.
It is not an obvious fact that except for a handful of people invitees to special screenings, and film societies nobody has either seen these films, nor are there any chances of their being seen.
The impression given in India was that “the ‘natives’ were not yet involved in the finer sensibilities of international cinema to appreciate these prophetic artists of the future. Hence their works were not expected to set the Ganga and the lacrica on fire.” The time has come to ask the question: Have they set the Seine, the Thames, the Potomac or the Danube on fire? ”
The Volga certainly was put by the non-maligned commercial cinema of Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Mehboob Khan, Amitabh Bachhan and so on.
Whether through ignorance or through connivance, through indulgence or conspiracy, a fraud was perpetuated on the public by the selective promotion of some film makers as ‘internationally famous’ and ‘internationally acclaimed’. Nobody cared to ask the ‘fundamental ‘question of how many awards were won by these producers.
Mainstream cinema gives its surplus to encourage new technology, form and content. Cinema cannot be run from a bureaucratic office by decrees and licensing shops. Cinema is not like other muses writing, poetry and painting, etc. that can be individually created.
Cinema requires the talents and energies of many skills. Cinema is very expensive and must have an audience which can pay for its making. This can only happen with an effective distribution and exhibition network. That requires the talents and energies of another set of people. Such people exist in the mainstream. To condemn them, humiliate them, and act morally superior to them is like committing suicide.
The mainstream cinema, starting with Bhuvan Shome, has always given space-foot for this cinema at the box-office. The success of “Fire”, “Bombay Boys”, and “Hyderabad Blues”, and “Black” shows that there is an audience for it too. Further, since all these films are made without government money, it is clear that there are producers and financiers in the private sector who are keen to support an alternative cinema.
The construction of the-state-of-art theatre complexes in Mumbai and Delhi show that there is private initiative to modernise exhibition infrastructure. The government, except for formulating cinema- friendly policy has no business to be in show business.
The sound bites and glory given to these filmmakers should have been used to seek a vision beyond a narrow self- interest of squandering public funds, foreign travel and unmerited wastage of media space. They should have joined their colleagues in mainstream cinema to change the shortsighted colonial policies of the state.
Their very survival depends on critical changes in government policies like exemption from entertainment tax, declaring cinema as an industry, incentives for theatre construction and abolition of the films division tax which was imposed by the British government during World War II to subsidise their propaganda films. They should have rebelled against the government that penalised cinema exports by putting a canalised tax on it.