Hindustan Times (Delhi) : 2019-02-10
NATION : 21 : 21
hindustantimes 19 S U N DAY H I N DU STA N TI M E S , N EW D E L H I F E B R U A RY 1 0 , 2 0 1 9 n HIT OR FLOP? n AROUND THE WORLD Static images, reams of text, See how other governments have chronicled their cinema histories. an entire floor dedicated to Gandhi — India’s first film museum is now open, but it’s raising plenty of questions HT PHOTOS: KUNAL PATIL HERE & THERE Built at a cost of ₹140 crore, spread across a five-storey glass building and the 19th-century heritage bungalow Gulshan Mahal — both on the Films Division premises in south Mumbai — the museum was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. So it’s not money, space or political will that have held it back.
Children have been having a field day at the site, posing in the ‘VFX studio’, singing on the playback recorder, inspecting camera models dating back to the early 1900s. But they take back virtually no insight into how our cinema has evolved, or how the story of movies in India is woven into the fabric of our society. Dipanjan Sinha [email protected] n A group of Class 6 students gather around their guide at the National Museum of Indian Cinema, Mumbai. Before them is a display of seven posters under the title ‘Devdas’. A small board provides the year in which each of the films was released, and adds that there have been multiple retellings in different languages — Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Assamese, Tamil and Malayalam.
“The first Devdas was made in 1935,” the guide says. The group moves on. And so it goes across much of the museum.
India’s first film museum does little to convey to the visitor the drama and ingenuity that drive the world’s largest generator of movies by number. It’s been 16 years in the making, but a corner on Satyajit Ray’s camera technique holds not a single video. Other epochal films and filmmakers are, similarly, represented only by posters and title cards.
There are no separate sections on the villains, heroes, cult hairstyles. There is a combined costume and make-up corner with about half a dozen items on display.
Music and visual effects have the most interesting interactive elements — you can pose against a green screen and pick a background to be shot against; or record your own voice over a soundtrack. But the section on film songs offers you just menu after menu of tracks to listen to, with no explanation for why they’ve been picked or how they matter. n n n Gulshan n Mahal (below), SEARCHING... A FLAWED SCRIPT? n For a national museum, there is also an unreasonable tilt towards Hindi cinema. Walking through the displays, you could get the impression that most Indian films, and almost all those of note, were made in Hindi. Or that the Hindi film industry was, if not better, certainly bigger than all other forms of Indian cinema put together.
Veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal, who headed the Museum Advisory Committee, agrees that diversity is an issue. “The various cinemas of the country have not got enough space yet. These things will start falling into place once the museum has a curator and collections increase,” he says.
He adds that one of the tragedies of Indian cinema is that some path-breaking works never got their due, and so their remnants are hard to find.
“A lot of people have bits of stuff across the country which they hold as family n n n n 20YRSON AS INDIA HAS CHANGED, SO HAS ITS IMAGE, AND ITS MOVIES, AT BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL MAINSTREAM TO ART HOUSE: AN ALL-TIME HIGH INDIA @BERLINALE, 2019 This is an exceptionally good year for us, as India and South Asia have 12 films at the Berlinale in 2019. These include… Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy, based on the life of street rappers Divine and Naezy, which will have its world premiere here. Udita Bhargava’s Dust, about a man chasing his lost love, and ends up following a left-wing uprising in India. Ritesh Batra’s Photograph, about a street photographer who persuades a girl he’s shot to pose as his fiancee. Bulbul Can Sing by
a coming-of-age Assamese story about three teenagers who experience love and loss. Prantik Basu’s Rang Mahal, which explores the myth of creation, as the Santhalis see it. n India makes an estimated 5,000 films a year, including 2,000 feature films. Twenty-one years ago, when I began working with the Berlinale, films like Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se (1998) and Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam were programmed in the International Forum of New Cinema section. It was puzzling to see these very mainstream films slotted in the most experimental section at the festival.
It was because Germans were trying to understand: what is this vibrant Indian cinema, this market where Hollywood is small change?
Since then, Bollywood films have moved up the programming chain. This year, Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy and Ritesh Batra’s Photograph (though not quite Bollywood, but using Bollywood stars and shot in Mumbai) both have high-profile Berlinale Special Gala screenings at the spectacular Friedrichstadt Palast, that seats nearly 1,900.
It is Shah Rukh Khan’s films that were among the first Indian ones to open at the Friedrichstadt Palast. Berlin is one of the very few cities in the world where 99% of the audience for an SRK film is blonde, and NRIS are in a negligible minority. I once asked the actor for his thoughts on why Europeans loved him so much.
“In the West you have a button for everything,” he said. “You press a button for the elevator, a button to make orange juice... I think I am their button to cry.” Meenakshi Shedde in Berlin [email protected] n I n t is hard to imagine, but true, that Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was selected for the Berlin film festival in part thanks to a Mumbai taxi driver. It is an anecdote Dorothee Wenner, Berlin Film Festival delegate for South Asia, loves to recount. She’s been visiting India every year for over 20 years.
Way back in 1999, amid preview screenings and meetings with filmmakers, a Saturday evening unexpectedly freed up.
“I asked my usual Colaba taxi driver about his favourite stars and films,” Wenner says. “He said he loved Salman Khan and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was showing in theatres. Immediately, I offered to buy us both tickets for a show, if he would come and occasionally translate the Hindi for me.”
International release dates were discussed with Bhansali, the selection panel saw the film, and it was selected for the Berlin Film Festival, in 2000. This anecdote tells us much about the quirky ways in which films sometimes make it to festivals.
This year, the 69th Berlin International Film Festival runs from February 7 to 17. There is an all-time high of 12 Indian and South Asian films selected.
Each festival selection paves the way for distribution internationally and in India, helping filmmakers find audiences. PHOTO: MEENAKSHI SHEDDE n Rima Das n (right), names (Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt); it will premiere at Friedrichstadt Palast.
Ritesh Batra’s Photograph, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sanya Malhotra, the story of a photographer who takes a photograph of a girl and then persuades her to pretend to be his fiancée to satisfy his grandmother who is pressurising him to marry.
Rima Das’s Bulbul Can Sing, a comingof-age story set in Assam, where innocent teenagers on a walk in the woods are harassed, leading to bittersweet consequences. Although expectations are high after her Village Rockstars, which is India’s Oscar entry, she says simply, “I just want to enjoy the festival.”
In Berlinale Shorts is Prantik Basu’s Rang Mahal, a 27-minute short film in Santhali. “It is based on one of the myths of creation among the Santhal tribals,” Basu SRK films at the Berlinale are always screened in either the massive Friedrichstadt Palast or the Kino International, both in former East Berlin, because these are the only theatres large enough to hold his massive fan following.
In fact, German filmmaker Uli Gaulke once told me, after watching My Name is Khan at the Berlinale, “This film is an important handshake between India and the West.” He saw it as a vital film, fighting global Islamophobia through a popular medium like Bollywood, fronted by a big Bollywood star.
We’re now in a bit of a full-circle moment. From art-house cinema to the glitz of mainstream, this year’s selection includes Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy, that is based on the real-life story of street rappers Divine and Naezy from Dharavi, and stars some of Bollywood’s biggest young n n says. “They believe two swans laid an egg under a tree, and humans came from that egg. Although I’m dealing with the grand subject of creation, I’d say I aspire to grandeur through minimalism.”
Here’s to a continuing strong presence of Indian and South Asian films at Berlin, and yes, a film in competition before long. (Meenakshi Shedde is a film critic, curator and South Asia Consultant to the Berlin Film Festival) PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PRESSREADER Pressreader.com +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW
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