By Anand Sinha
Edited by Nidhi Singh, Junior Editor, The Indian Economist
The informed film goers keep complaining about the usual film goers’ indifference to serious cinema, while turning a blind eye to the level of awareness among this audience. The best films of India fare badly at the box office while on the other hand, the stupid no brainers and stock romances create wonders at the box office. The reason for this ironical situation is situated in the function of cinema and the approach of the audience.
Cinema can be looked upon at from two angles. Either it is a source of entertainment or it is a piece of art. Most filmmakers and cinema goers look at it from the first point of view. A select few look at it from the second point of view; for them, engagement rather than entertainment of the audience is more important. A substantially large group tries to blend in both of these elements in the films.
The filmmakers who make critically acclaimed films are the ones who have always looked up to great works of cinema and cannot think of degrading themselves by making films of inferior quality. But they are always constrained to make those films whose budgets are low so that they can at least not concur losses. A normal audience has never watched the cinema of Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal or even Dibakar Bannerjee. Then, there are numberless money driven filmmakers like Yash Chopra or Karan Johar who have made mass entertainers. Their melodramas and at times, no brainers, are purely commercial films which cater to the average cinema going audience. Some of these films have been completely ridiculous which fail in their basic function of entertainment. Finally, there are filmmakers like Rajkumar Hirani or Farhan Akhtar who make commercial, entertaining but at the same time, smart films which cater to masses but don’t disappoint the serious cinema goers as well. Rajkumar Hirani, one of the smartest directors belonging to the third group, had once said in an interview that a taxi driver had told him that he did not enjoy 3 Idiots because he could not connect to the film. So there were people who did not enjoy a good but purely commercial film like 3 Idiots.
What kind of push is needed to make the audience more aware about cinema and equip them to make better selection of films is the central question. More film festivals are needed to be hosted in the small cities. Schools should screen good films and documentaries for young students. Primary source of film information for the present generation is the internet. But amidst these suggestions, it remains a question before us whether the audience is ready to liberate itself and open itself to better cinema or not. But this fact can also not be ignored that every film caters to a certain segment of the audience and it cannot satisfy everyone. Firstly, there has to be awareness and then can be expected a better appreciation from the audience.
In the end, we should not forget what the film Sullivan’s Travels had implied decades ago that there is an audience which needs pure entertainment after a hard day’s work and there always remains a niche audience for critically better films. This would remain the truth until the point we have an aware, willing and responsible audience.
Currently based in Delhi, Anand is an English literature student at the Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, University of Delhi. After working as a content writer and editor for an online firm for a few months, he interned at Youth Ki Awaaz. Sinha defines his political stand as centre-left. His interests include literature, cinema, music, philosophy and world politics.