Film Education


CINEMA: ART OR INDUSTRY

Premendra Mazumder is working on cinema in versatile capacities. As a film critic, writes for various publications worldwide. Authored a book on Hundred Years of Indian Cinema in Bengali. Edited several film journals. Worked in the editorial board of the ‘Dictionary of Asian Cinema’ published in Oct. 2008 by Nouveau Monde Editions, Paris. Member of the ‘Federation Internationale Presse de Cinematographique – Fipresci’. Official Correspondent for India for the ‘Cannes Critics Week’ since 2005.


Today how would you look at cinema, as an art or an industry. How does it maintain the balance or is there a need for a separation.

Cinema is a perfect combination of art and industry. Its a brilliant creative work and a superb saleable product as well.

Cinema always maintained an ideal balance during its ontogenesis. Its not needed to facilitate an unhappy divorce of such a generative marriage. Any unwarranted effort of such a separation will simply be futile.

Do you feel that there is a space where a filmmaker as an artist can exist without bothering about how their film will do at the box office. Is there an independent DVD market that can exist for this artist who does not have to rely on mass appeal but address a  select audience and still be in business. Who offers this space to the filmmaker. Can a filmmaker afford to use cinema as a ‘pen’ can she/ he really be free to create.

If there is sufficient resource to be patronised, the filmmaker as an artist can exist without bothering about the box-office. But it is difficult to survive as the producer may not be interested always to waste money for such a benevolence. When any creative art comes to the market, it becomes a product. And whenever there is any necessity to depend upon the returns from the market the absolute independence of the creator is compelled to compromise with the conditions of the market. On the other hand the quality of the product can also control the character of the market. Even it can create its niche market for its own survival. Cinema has this quality in abundance. So a filmmaker has got enough opportunity to experiment. As the vast community culture of film viewing is changing very rapidly to small group culture or to individual culture, the scope to reach the target audience is also increasing very speedily. Shifting from large single-screen theatres to small multiplexes or to personal home monitors, creates wider opportunity to ignore the box-office oriented complex market mechanism controlled by the nexus of financiers, producers, distributors and exhibitors. Film sense is increasing apace amongst the educated viewers through the constant persuasion of the support groups like film clubs, film schools, film studies departments of colleges and universities, other film education centres et al which could be a good help for the independent filmmakers to ignore the box-office. Only constraint is the lack of professional approach. A film-society activist or a film scholar is ready to spend Rs.200(+) per ticket for seeing a big-budget product in a class-I multiplex with friends or family members and there is nothing wrong in it but the same person will not be ready to promote a low-budget independent film in the same multiplex even at the half price and rather find either for a complimentary pass in some academic show or opt for lending a DVD at Rs.10(-). When these group of film intelligentsia will realise that not only their intellectual support is sufficient to promote a good film or an independent filmmaker but also their financial support is very much necessary for their survival, the total premise will be changed.

Independent DVD market for a select audience is in existence worldwide, even in India. For example, the entire NE zone of the country where the people are contented with their own language and culture has a huge home-made DVD market. Its a booming business there since the digital technology opened the new horizon in audio-visual culture. In mainstream market also the existing oligopoly could be challenged by the independent filmmakers as there is a high demand of genre-wise films. Here also the role of the above-mentioned support groups is very much important. People with real film-sense should realise that even to make a very small budget independent film a bountiful amount of money is needed and if the filmmaker does not get it back it will be impossible for the artist to survive. So the support groups should come forward to activate the alternative channels for promotion of such positive efforts. Even an alternative market network could also be built up using the technological advancements.

This space is being generated through a complex market mechanism. There are some forums in existence who are trying to explore the market. Demand is also increasing to cater the need of the consumable products. Some satellite channels are marking some slots for such films not to promote good films or independent filmmakers but to cater their own need for finding out new avenues to increase profit. Some support groups may come forward jointly to operate a separate channel for promotion of such films in a regular manner. When the people in general will have the wide opportunity to taste the good films at their home comfort according to their own convenience, they will certainly come forward to promote such films by purchasing the DVDs or going to the theatres paying entry fees.

Advancement of technology will shortly make it possible to use cinema as a ‘pen’ and the filmmaker will be ‘free’ in the real sense of the term to create.

Many young aspiring filmmakers in India want to express themselves but feel limited by the economic approach of ‘the mainstream feature film’ . What are the other options available to them to make a livelihood as a filmmaker.

First of all the aspiring filmmaker has to decide the specific goal and then the way to reach there. The problem with most them is that they are basically confused and can not decide what they exactly want to achieve. There is nothing wrong to dream about being a Yash Chopra or a Ritwik Ghatak, but it is practically impossible to be the both at the same time. Its a Laputan proposition. And to achieve a specific goal the filmmaker should be philosophically honest. Limitation of funding for making artistically brilliant film is always there as the producer wants a quick return of the investment with a handsome profit. Still there are so many excellent films which have glorified the history of Indian cinema without bothering for the box-office.

To make filmmaking a livelihood is really difficult at the initial stage particularly for the outsiders. Ad-films, corporate films, commissioned documentaries etc. could be the options at the struggling stage to survive. Even after getting success several filmmakers continue earning from these alternatives.

What are the options of funding a film for a young filmmaker today.

As the film industry in India is being corporatised very rapidly, there are many opportunities of getting funds for the young aspiring filmmakers. Corporate houses could be approached directly with the specific proposals. Like independent filmmakers, independent producers always exist, who have the money and want to be associated with some good artistic works. Some NGOs are there in the business. Govt. organisations like NFDC, PSBT, FD etc. also provide funds. In state levels, there are some organisations. Some reputed international film festivals have got some projects. Many funding agencies are there. But for any such project, one need to have a worthy proposal and right valuable contacts.

What has been your experiences with film festivals across the world.

Refreshing & worthful, exciting & colourful. Festivals enrich the knowledge, update the information, explore new talents, retrospect the veterans. Interactions with the filmbuffs of different countries create an comfortable feeling of international bonding beyond borders based upon cinema. Its an excellent opportunity to expand the wings in an open sky of cinema.

Are film festivals an alternative space for an artist to get recognized.

Absolutely right. Film is an universal form of art. So its universal recognition is most important to a real artist. And the film festival is the right forum to get that recognition. A film may or may not be accepted in the land of its origin. But it could be highly acclaimed internationally. That certainly benefits the artist, intellectually and sometimes financially as well. There are so many examples which confirm that a real artist has been recognised first by some festival.

When does a young filmmaker know that he is ready to enter his film into a reputed film festival. What are the qualities in a film that you look for being on the jury board of many film festivals yourself. What is the special quality that takes the first prize and appeals the most.

It depends upon the self-judgement, which, in most of the cases, are not correct. So the members of the selection jury are compelled to see so many bad entries. An efficient consultant can show the right path.

A good film draws your uninterrupted attention from the beginning till end with all your sensations focused on it without any distortion and it pursues you even after the final bell rings and keeps you obsessed for ever. As a member of the jury I find this quality of a film.

Film is a very complicated medium. So process to judge the best is also very complicated. There is no hard-and-fast rule, but some pre-fixed conditions could be there. It differs from festival to festival. Some common aspects are to evaluate different sections, such as, form, presentation, content, script, cinematography, sound, music, acting, editing and overall performance. But which appeals most is that it should not only be a good film but the best one amongst all in the competition.

How do you enter your film in the Cannes festival. Do you feel the process of selection is transparent and democratic.

I am the official correspondent for India for the Cannes Critics Week for last six years. I strongly believe that its selection process is very much transparent and highly democratic.

If you would have to list the top ten film festivals in the world what would they be.

As I work as the consultant for several film festivals worldwide, I should not comment on this particular point. I think all the festivals are important as they promote good cinema, explore new talents, create and nourish healthy film culture. That’s all.

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22 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great interview…thanks!
“But for any such project, one need to have a worthy proposal and right valuable contacts”
It’s a shame that the ‘valuable contacts’ part still holds true…

Comment by amborish

You are right Amborish, but unfortunately it is true

Comment by Premendra Mazumder

ye hui na baat, perfect interview 4 people like me. but pls explain ‘Laputan proposition’. I think I shud exploit the NE market soon 🙂

waise just want 2 share some info, mayb ppl already know but but http://www.withoutabox.com is a site which is one of its kind 4 all film festivals in the world. u can send entries online & pay later. its a very comprehensive site. they also mail me d coming up festivals by mail every week.

kabhi mera bhi interview lijiye na Ma’am !!! (just joking)

Comment by Agastya Kapoor

soldier tera interview hoga tere successful film ke baad, bahut jaldi :)Thanks for sharing and the feedback

Comment by oorvazifilmeducation

Thank you Agastya for your witty comments. Do you really want an explanation on Laputan proposition or its just a put-on? As Oorvazi said, we shall be waiting to read your interview soon.

Comment by Premendra Mazumder

Very interesting, we need more people to read this.

However, we hear the same appeal here too. I quote – ‘A film-society activist or a film scholar is ready to spend Rs.200(+) per ticket for seeing a big-budget product in a class-I multiplex with friends or family members and there is nothing wrong in it but the same person will not be ready to promote a low-budget independent film in the same multiplex even at the half price and rather find either for a complimentary pass in some academic show or opt for lending a DVD at Rs.10(-). When these group of film intelligentsia will realise that not only their intellectual support is sufficient to promote a good film or an independent filmmaker but also their financial support is very much necessary for their survival, the total premise will be changed.’

The inherent assumption of the intelligentsia as a patron of ‘better/intelligent/meaningful/parallel’ cinema should step up and support it by any means is like asking one to do social work for the sake of cinema as an art. By its very token it contradicts its own statement of cinema being powerful enough to straddle the so-called separate worlds of meaningful and commercial cinema.

The movie-goer, be it a Ray-film fanatic or SRK, invests in a film for his/her own take-away. The only difference is the kind of take-away. It is not his reponsibility to patronise or support a certain kind of cinema inorder to spawn it or encourage it further. The mechanics of cinema are and have always been commercial unless greatly supported by Govt agencies. We saw it with NFDC during in India during our ‘New Wave’ and with France and other countries too. The point, however is not to put a responsibility on a particular agent but to realise that an audience will be drawn no matter what by the promise and the promise of the product alone. Ppl throng SRK movies because he delivers what he promises. The intelligentsia refuse to pay 200 rs for a ‘different’ film because time and again it has not delivered. Even an Anurag Kashyap is by far average (despite his distinct genius proven at various levels) and that is the best we can claim to have today. Why then, should the ‘intelligentsia’ support the kind of cinema that he would love to see but never gets to see? A cinema that time and again promises the moon but does not even deliver a pebble?

Comment by Fatema

Thank you Fatema for your valued opinions. I agree with you on the points you have rightly mentioned.

Comment by Premendra Mazumder

However, it is heartening to read (and we do see this change around us too) as Mr Mazumdar puts it – ‘This space is being generated through a complex market mechanism. There are some forums in existence who are trying to explore the market.’

Comment by Fatema

Fatema ! thanks so much for your feedback.

Happy that you feel its an important topic and help me spread the concern.

Agree that not much is being done in India and you can get away with a lot in the name of art 🙂 but at the same time I dont feel that an artist in cinema needs to go with a begging bowl and sacrifice to commerce she/he should be given their space to express. And on their part they should not be lazy but should dedicate themselves to their art and dig deep into their soul. All work cannot be inspired always but the aim should be to reach there atleast.

Comment by oorvazifilmeducation

Totally agree on that front. And as Mr Mazumdar has rightly said most film-makers are confused about what they want to say. And I may add to it, mostly aspirational. Art, in any form is truest and purest when it is an expression. An expression of all that which is true and meaningful deep inside the artist. Sadly, we hardly see any such form of art in our so-called meaningful cinema and guess that’s why its floundering and hasn’t garnered enough support yet.

Comment by Fatema

Nice interview! some very valid points to ponder on.
The state of mind of most of the current commercial bollywood people is like that of a frog inside a well, comfortably commenting upon the effort of the other frog which is trying its best to come out of that.
sad to hear that our meaningful cinema has failed to hold any meaning till now.
And ‘super-shit’ MNIK has delivered satan-knows what it has promised!!!!!!!!

Comment by sowrik

Sowrik, difficult for us to understand what it delivered but delivered it did, to those who it mattered. The film wouldn’t have earned big bucks otherwise. The pre-release controversy notwithstanding.

Comment by Fatema

Fatema…earning big bucks shouldn’t be the only criteria for judging a film. I bet any world classic, even many oscar winning drama if had been made in hindi and released in india, they would all have been resounding flop in box office. That doesn’t mean they are not good films but its just that the sensibilities of mass public in this country is underdeveloped. Underdeveloped because they have been undernourished by repetitive plots stereotype charachters, loud treatment etc. for years.
Moreover, in a country with so many diversities, it is difficult for any single film to capture the imagination of masses unless larger that life images are created, fantasies are woven, cosy rosy wonderland is presented. But in the process, intellect, philosophy, reality gets lost. Instead of the painful process of soul searching, the filmmaker looks out for glam packaging and ends up dishing out just a ‘product’ not a film. Instead of that target audiences should be decided before hand. Difficult to satisfy tom, dick & harry without compromising on quality.
Its good to see many recent filmmakers are coming up with new ideas and experiments.

The nourishment has begun. Change is inevitable.

Comment by sowrik

A thought provoking interview which spans over over so many issues. “And on their part they should not be lazy but should dedicate themselves to their art and dig deep into their soul. All work cannot be inspired always but the aim should be to reach there atleast.”
I feel a filmmaker may never be able to make his vision come true as he is manipulated by so many hands. The Producer, the actors, the budget,the audience and the political parties, to name a few, all put a spanner in the works and severely limit his aspirations.

The free movie downloads, youtube, piracy and easy sharing over the Net eat into the revenues of filmmakers too.

I am glad we have a space like this where valuable information is disseminated serious discussions are possible.

Comment by Indu Raman

It brings me great joy Indu to be able to offer this space to passionate film lovers.

I do agree that a lot comes in the way of a filmmaker as an artist at the same time I also salute the filmmakers who inspite of all this have made enriching films.

Comment by oorvazi

i thank the board for the wonderful conversation.
While I agree that the film intelligentsia should realize and support the cause, I try to impress that the filmmaker also needs to take full advantage of the changing technology that makes filmmaking affordable and also film funding accessible [ e.,g., crowdfunding]

The NE example that you gave is a very good reference here because it is practical evidence
that such a system is possible [even though the
NE demographic situation is particular] and can
be successfully explored in other area/situations.

“Advancement of technology will shortly make it possible to use cinema as a ‘pen’ and the filmmaker will be ’free’ in the real sense of the term to create.”

– I feel ‘shortly’ has already arrived.

Yes. Earning from an alternative source is a MUST, but in doing this less the deviation from the focus area more the better.

“Like independent filmmakers, independent producers always exist, who have the money and want to be associated with some good artistic works. …. one need to have a worthy proposal and right valuable contacts.” I very much appreciate you for including the words ‘righit valuable contacts’ for they are a must for any project and
there is no reason why filmmaking should claim an exemption.

-ganga

Comment by gangadhar panday

Dear Ganga, Its so nice to receive feedback from someone like you who is a professional in the field and encourages independent film making.

Comment by oorvazi

Thank You Ganga for sharing your valued opinion. Got your mail. Will reply you soon.

Comment by Premendra Mazumder

Very enriching interview Mr. Premendra! A great resource for my research work.

After going through the article, I would say that the scenario is very much similar to Malaysia.

I would like seek for your opinion on independent and mainstream cinema. I always have this question running in my mind and yet to find a solid answer to it. Hope you could englighten me with your view.

How do you define independent cinema and mainstream cinema?

Comment by pvimala

Thanks for your feedback.
Nice question ! And I am sure Premendraji will have an interesting answer.

Comment by oorvazi

Thanks Oorvazi for your prompt reply.

In fact, I must admit that this is a great platform for knowledge sharing. Really admire your effort and dedication in sharing your knowledge to a wider scope of audience.

Btw, I’m a Malaysian Indian, currently doing my PhD in Communication and make films with small budget with the help from family and friends. We (the minority in the country) hardly get support from the goverment due to certain limitations stated in their policy.

Your blog will certainly be a great resource for my research work.

Thank you again!

Comment by pvimala

🙂 Lovely o know you and thanks so much for your kind and encouraging words.

Comment by oorvazi




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