Cinema. A vivid expression of life on the canvas of the silver screen. As Indians, we are all well accustomed to the whoops and curses of the talkies that are films. Whether it is Bollywood, or Tollywood, or any of that crap Kamaal R Khan directs and produces himself in, since the days of Ray and Roy to the days of Hirani and Kashyap, Indian cinema has found their place in the hearts and souls of millions.
And yet, for a country with such a huge number of releases every year, hardly a handful of them get noticed. It is therefore in this mess of an industry that many films get lost in the noise. While loud, cacophonic videos masquerade as films (Yes, I’m looking at you Chulbul Pandey), small films often do not get the credit they may deserve.
And, that is not a problem with Indian cinema alone. The ‘others,’ or to be fairly politically correct, the very origin of Independent cinema is based on the conceived existence of a class-system in film-making. If you have the bucks to spend, producers often have the pick of the litter while the rest are left fighting for breadcrumbs. True, with the new millennium Independent and Parallel Cinema is getting the recognition it deserves. But, film festivals like Sundance and to a lesser extent, Cannes and Berlin can only do little in introducing such films to a wider audience until the film is picked up by a major producer and distributor. And that therein, is the biggest hurdle for independent filmmakers. Making a film may or may not need a paucity of money, but distributing it to a wider audience requires money. That is the reason why most Independent cinema never makes it past fests and critics’ circles.
Here below, are just some of such gems which may not see the light of the day (At least not a wide release) in India this year,
- Masaan: An Indo-French co-production, Masaan narrates the tales of five people in Banaras. Screened at the 2015 Cannes Festival and winner of the FIPRESCI Prize, Masaan has already been seen as a potential Best Foreign Picture nominee for the Oscars, next year. And yet, despite the presence of familiar faces like Sanjay Mishra and Richa Chaddha and the fact that Anurag Kashyap is co-producing it, Masaan seems destined to replicate the failure of Udaan at the box-office. True, it will not get a wide release but, even with a limited release, how many of us will watch it when it comes on 24th of July?
2. Titli: Another Independent film which turned out to be quite a festival-favourite, now left in the dust. Titli was screened in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes 2014 and has premiered in almost every major film festival in the world. And yet, it still has no distributors in India. Clearly, being a Yash-Raj product doesn’t help. Surely, the Chopras could have helped with the release rather than spending lavishly on vanity projects such as the Grace of Monaco.
3. Chauthi Koot: This Punjabi film, adapted from a pair of short stories and set in Operation Blue Star Punjab in the 80’s, received a ten-minute long standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival. But, it would seem that International recognition has been not enough for a wider release in India, as well as in its native state of Punjab. Making a film on such a volatile subject, has made the release an even difficult ask considering that it was originally slated for a 2012 release.
4. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: Winner of the Grand jury prize at the World’s biggest independent film festival must count for something. So should a film that has been picked up by Fox Searchlight, the Hollywood equivalent of ‘F Se Phantom’ Films credited with films like Juno and the wonderful 500 Days of Summer. And yet, it remains a festival treasure with a limited release in the United States and Europe this week. Surely, there’s no hope to see this film in our theatres (That is why I love torrents). Now, if only we could limit the number of ‘Transformer’ atrocities coming out…
5. What We Do in the Shadows: Reviews suggest that this 2014 New Zealand film is the most inventive and original films to come out this year. Screened to a standing ovation at Sundance and other film festivals across the world, this is one of those rare independent films to actually get a substantial release across a wide audience. Alas, we can only hope for such a screening, here in India. At the very least, the International Film Festival of India may offer excited movie-watchers a chance. *fingers crossed*
6. The End of the Tour: David Foster Wallace, one of this century’s great American authors, alongside Jonathan Franzen lived a life cut unfairly short. And yet, for anyone who has read his novels or short stories or David Lipsky’s biography that is the basis for this film, the man behind the fine print was as human as the rest of us. Jason Segal as Wallace and Jesse ‘Lex Luthor’ Eisenberg as Lipsky make a fine duo, that make even a short trailer sound very insightful and wryfully funny. Too bad it won’t make it India. It’s hardly having a release in the United States.