Success of fellow filmmakers add masala to offbeat movie brigade

A chat with some movie enthusiasts on the sidelines of national film festival shows the new-found confidence of the ‘art-house’ brigade

Bhawna Kothari | July 3, 2014



With the fate of offbeat – or non-masala – films shoring up, at least in metropolitan India, of late, the enthusiasm among people making such films has to be seen to be believed. A good occasion for that came last week during the 61st national film festival in the capital, which brings the best of films from across the country – primarily offbeat, or what used to be once called parallel cinema, but also commercially-aimed mainstream ones.

The recent commercial success and critical acclaim received by films such as “The Lunchbox” and “The Ship of Theseus”, among several other features made of late by independent filmmakers seem to have brought a spring in the step of such filmmakers and art-house film enthusiasts.

As Subhanshi Mishra, a student from MIT institute of design in Pune, who was present at the film festival, said, “The difference between art and commercial cinema is diminishing. This is definitely required to save the soul and essence of offbeat cinema, which reflects on issues related to life and the society at large. The success of many independent films in recent times proves this kind of cinema definitely has an audience – a much smaller and niche it might be –and that this combination with commercial “tadka” may result in some influential outputs.”

She also said independent filmmakers deserve and require an appropriate publicity and distribution platform to motivate them to produce quality cinema.

Fellow Pune resident Shonglin, a student at the Film and Television Institute of India, also said, “The scenario is changing positively. The impact of education has given a development aspect to offbeat cinema. But government intervention is required today to provide certain provisions and motivate such talent.”

Some of the beautifully crafted, directed, scripted, shooted, acted and conceptualized films were showcased. Apart from a few such as Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Gulaabi Gang, Jal, others were being released for the first time in this festival.

It’s not all hunky-dory, though. According to Deepa, publicity head of The Dirt Track Productions, which makes “films and documentaries on remote regions of the world”, despite the success of several films, the door is far from open for filmmakers like them. “We are always short of funds and no one is ready to sponsor us or the movie because since it does not fit into the masala movie genre, that it might not get it into some Rs 100-crore club, or that it does not have the hallmark of a ‘hit and blockbuster’ film,” she said at the festival venue.

“So, we do all our shooting, scripting, editing and post-production work on our own, paying from our own pockets and on very little budget. It might be possible that our films may not give them (investors) a huge return on investment, and releasing the films in multiplexes require a minimum Rs 3 lakh, which is beyond our budget. But so what! We release our movies in such film festivals and on DVD!”

Vibhavari, a teacher, cinema researcher and critic, said though a large majority of people are interested in commercial “Bollywood masala films”, one cannot ignore the fact that quite a sizeable audience is tuned into offbeat cinema as well. “The audience is becoming intelligent now – they want to see realism, they want to view films that depict a different, non-stereotyped story-line,” she said.

The national film festival is organised every year by the directorate of film festivals, under the ministry of information and broadcasting.

(Bhawna is an intern with Governance Now)

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