Filed under: Professional Talk | Tags: Amitava Nag, film appreciation, film education, film magazine, oorvazi irani, silhouette magazine
Q. What according to you is the role a cinema magazine plays in society and film culture
A cinema magazine, as always plays the role of a mediator between the film and the audience. It acts as a platform where the film technicians, the academicians and the general audience bring into fore their collective experience and thoughts. Ideally, any art magazine (in the broader sense of the term) should extend the perception of the masses – to ‘educate’ them in a sense to expect beyond the obvious.
Q. Is the role of a magazine in India on the subject of cinema any different than in the rest of the world
Yes, I do believe so. Primarily in the West you will find that there were different genres of films and yet the divide was not drawn so vividly. In India there had been this tussle of ‘art’ vs ‘commercial’ which all are quite vague ( though you can understand what is being meant by the terms ). This is because there were groups which had their own agenda and interest to satisfy. The analogy can be the way the European art-house directors looked at Hollywood. Problem is life is not of binary opposites. So, any polarization like this is bound to drift away with time.
In Indian context, predominantly, the film magazines had been the bastions of the film societies. The societies always preached the European movies and so vehemently derided Hollywood and the Indian ‘commercial’ movies. In this context I do feel, the contemporary cinema magazine should have an open outlook and judge films or movements by their merit and not by the baggage they carry.
Q. What audience does your magazine cater to and what is its prime focus
Our magazine is semi academic in nature. The primary focus is film students and scholars and those who are thinking seriously about cinema – not just as a medium of entertainment
Q. What is the relevance of a magazine compared to books on the subject
A magazine is a flowing thing, because it has its frequency. So you can divide a subject amongst different issues of the magazine instead of punching everything in one place and making it a bit monotonous. A book can tend to be boring a bit. A magazine, I feel is like a flowing river whereas a book might be a static reservoir.
Q. Would you be in a position to list the 5 best film magazines in the world and highlight their special features and which is your personal favourite.
I would rather comment on the Indian ones that I liked. Cinemaya was there which is no more. Deep Focus is also not regular. Then Chitrabikshyan was there. Movie Montage and Splice. We grew up reading these and understanding about cinema so much from these. Internationally Sight and Sound is extremely uptodate and caters to those who are keen on ‘information’ whereas Jump Cut or Cahiers used to be so focused on being original. Recently, I like Rougue and Senses of Cinema – two very strong e-magazines.
On the Indian contemporary scene, I am amazed by the fast yet slick presentation of Dear cinema. Upperstall is quite uptodate and good. Then there is Wide Screen Journal which is quite offbeat and I like it
Q. Would you like to share with us the birth of your magazine and why and how it came to be born
It all started way back in 2001 on a humid summer evening in Kolkata. It was at the Nandan premises, the hotbed of cinema culture in Kolkata when a group of enthusiasts,mainly students (apart from few like me) came up with the idea of a film society. The ‘Silhouette Film Society’ was born. And as one of the activities of the society we planned to bring out a magazine – an annual one. However, soon the magazine became the society’s prime activity – Silhouette. We had a break of almost 4 years and are getting ready for the Vol VIII of Silhouette to be published in Oct 2010.
This year’s cover is Representation of City in cinema. We are also trying for a retro section on Rabindranath Tagore – his influence on cinema.
Q. What is the member strength of your magazine and what are the challenges you face on the path
We had earlier, but currently we are not having a membership scheme of the magazine. We just sell the magazine to different places – through stalls and push-sales.
The biggest challenge is finance. We have to sell the book at 60-70% of the cost. The nature of the book is such that it generally doesn’t attract advertisers. We are short on human resources as well since everyone is working outside. Our production standard is pretty high – not sure if many endeavours like this which are self-sponsored can match us. The magazine is appreciated nationally and internationally. But we don’t have a steady readership increase or a steady reach to our readers.
We have been requesting every media practitioner to judge our work and if satisfied spread the word – Silhouette should reach everyone interested in good cinema in any part of the world. Currently I feel we have only reached probably 5-10% of our friends. Without this collective co-existence no cinema culture can thrive and sustain.
Q. What is the history of the film magazine before and after Cahiers du Cinema.
” Cahiers is probably the most influential cinema magazine of the world till date. Founded in the early 50’s by Andre Bazin , Eric Rohmer and others, their gain to prominence was only in the early 60s through Truffaut primarily and then Godard and Chabrol. Since these critics were directors themselves with their own agenda of anti-establishment targeted at Hollywood, they used Cahiers as their bandwagon propaganda. That worked and Cahiers shaped up the Auteur Theory.
Probably in the history of cinema magazines and cinema genres and movements, no other magazine was hand-holding with a movement to its success. Cahiers remained influential afterwards as well and there is no doubt that apart from the Nouvelle Vague they had shaped the way film criticism should evolve. Alfred Hitchcock for one was focused in Cahiers before anyone took him seriously as an all time great film maker. I do believe for many years, Cannes and Cahiers also had a similar hand-holding relation in ‘creating’ star film directors. So they became an institution themselves (sic).
But still, I believe Cahiers had played one of the most significant role in cinema culture in the 60s and 70s.”
Silhouette Magazine Website
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