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Clichéd Bollywood formulas dominating Indian cinema: experts

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Bollywood has been stuck with its clichéd formulas for the past several decades, not caring to innovate or evolve, thereby portraying unrealistic facts about India, its culture and the real issues, say film experts.

Though India is one of the oldest filmmaking countries in the world, Indian films are still treated like a poor second cousin in the world market. While countries like Indonesia, Korea, Japan and China have created a niche for themselves in a very short period, said speakers at a panel discussion.

According to the speakers, over-hyped Hindi films, stars and film banners often overshadow the talent and accomplished body of work of Indian cinema. And when a few films and actors break free of Bollywood's shadow and manage to get recognition abroad, most do not come to know.

For instance, very few know that Rajnesh Domalpalli's Telugu film "Vanaja" recently won an award at this year's Berlin Film Festival for the best debut feature film. The film throws light on the caste system structure in Indian society, fading institutions of folk art and decaying monuments.

"If a Hindi film had won the award it would have been front page news. But nobody reported about 'Vanaja'," said Anurag Kashyap, one of the speakers at the discussion titled 'How distant is Indian Cinema from World Cinema' here.

"Vanaja", which was premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, bagged the Best Narrative Feature at the 2006 Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) Film Festival, New York.

Kashyap also said that the Nana Patekar-starred "The Pool" won the Special Jury Prize: Dramatic at the Sundance film festival this year but it wasn't reported either.

Directed by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Chris Smith, "The Pool" depicts the peculiar tale of an underage hotel worker obsessed with a swimming pool at a lavish home in Panjim, Goa. His attempts to interact with the family who own the pool lead to unexpected twists and turns.

These examples show that too much focus is given to Bollywood.

Says Kashyap: "The focus is so much on Bollywood that nobody talks of regional films like Telugu or Tamil. Telugu cinema's revenue is five times that of Bollywood. A Telugu writer gets around Rs.8 million to 8.5 million. However, in Bollywood a writer doesn't get paid more than Rs.3.5 million to 4 million.

"Also, Indian distributors are not ready to recognise the talent in the country. A foreigner (Chris Smith) came and cast Nana in his film, but Indian distributors refused to release it because the film doesn't have any big star or songs."

The director of the controversial film "Black Friday" feels that it is time to tell our own stories.

But the current scene in India is that most Hindi filmmakers, who fortunately or unfortunately represent Indian culture on the global stage, are obsessed with the West, and instead of speaking their own language they try to imitate the West, he said.

"In the process of acquiring their language we are in danger of losing our own. The fact is that local is global. There is no dearth of stories in India. But we have not explored them. When I go out on the road, every man I see there is a story. We need to tell that story.

"World cinema is my window to the world and it changes my perception of the world. But our problem is that we don't react to the issues. We want to flog formulas and release it with our apology. We need patrons who are ready to experiment," said Kashyap.

Bhuvan Lal, president of the entertainment division at MCORPGLOBAL, said that it is not true that Indian films have made inroads in the West.

"For last 20 years we have been arriving. Bollywood has no market in the East or the West. People in the US speak a different language but we are lost in the Bollywood idiom.

"No one in Bollywood wants to rock the boat, they are all looking for a similar formula. We must have the ability to write stories for the overseas market if we are looking for world recognition," said Lal.

Lal also feels that India lacks in funding and distribution.

"The cost of average Hollywood films is $35 million and most of them are released with 5,000 prints. In comparison, we have Yash Chopra's films which have 700 to 800 prints."

"There is no support system in India to see that films grow and evolve," said Lal at the talk held at Aurobindo Institute of Mass communication.


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