The spotlight is on the ‘extras'

Aditi Nigam | Updated on: Sep 22, 2011


If you happen to travel by a State transport bus in north India, passing through small towns, the one sight you can't miss are the Hindi film posters plastered on walls, bus shades, kiosks and sundry places. Some, of course, quite clearly display locally-made ‘Adult' films, but not all. And, if you happen to get off the bus at a local market, you will see piles of cheap pirated CDs and VCDs on sale, even on handcarts. While some of these may look dubious, a closer look shows copies of old classics or long-forgotten blockbusters from the 1970s and 1980s, the ever-so-popular and the ‘poor man's Big B' — Mithun Chakraborty.

Post-globalisation, the world of Hindi films has undergone a sea change. While multiplexes have mushroomed, the few single screens that survive are mostly located on the fringes of big cities. It is these screens as well as pirated CDs and VCDs that provide the only entertainment lifeline to the vast majority of the working public, mainly migrants, especially in small towns.

In a positive development, globalisation and the resultant corporatisation and availability of finance have unleashed the dormant talent of newer and smaller production houses. So, we now have a steady flow of a different kind of cinema that one can easily relate to, mainly screened in multiplexes.

So, with all the negatives and positives, these are surely exciting times for film scholars. The past few years have been particularly good for cinema buffs, especially those fond of Hindi films, as a fair amount of academic writing, books and research articles are now available for those interested in delving deeper into their history. Beyond the Boundaries of Bollywood , a collection of articles and interviews, is among them. The authors take us to a world of Hindi cinema beyond what we know as Bollywood or the Bombay film industry. Essays on the genre of stunts or action adventure and horror, the introduction of sound, the change in audience tastes, the growing popularity of film festivals, the expanding universe of B-movies, and, of course, the hatke or different-from-the-mainstream kind of cinema.

The high point of the book is the series of interesting and eminently readable interviews by co-editor Jerry Pinto, with doctor-turned-filmmaker and Marathi theatre director Jabbar Patel, Arun Khopkar, Anurag Kashyap and Abhay Deol. Patel's narration of his encounter with the legendary Lata Mangeshkar for a Marathi song in his film is memorable. Apparently, the fee she charged him was just a single rose!

Heritage mission

In the introduction to the book, co-editor Rachel Dwyer mentions the need for documentation of the Hindi film industry and hopes the book can play a part in this. No doubt, it will.

However, film scholars have some hope on the horizon with the Information and Broadcasting Minister's recent announcement of a Rs 660-crore National Film Heritage Mission. The stated aim is to provide a platform for cataloguing, disseminating and monetising film content, videotapes, posters and other related material in the possession of either the film wing of the Ministry or with the various State governments, individuals and institutions. As part of the plan, 3,000 films (all languages) will be acquired and digitised and 3,000 more will be restored. These, the Minister promised, will be available as affordable DVDs.

In the meantime, however, books such as this will be of great help in chronicling the rich heritage of the Hindi film industry.

Published on September 22, 2011
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