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Off the beaten track

Techie Gireesh Kumar wonders if parallel films are a thing of the past


IT WAS around 15 years back. At a neighbour's house, a crowd watches a movie shown on Doordarshan on a Sunday afternoon. It was a time when Doordarshan was the only channel available and there were few who owned TVs. The language was something we didn't understand, and the actors were unfamiliar. But that didn't deter people from gluing their eyes to the television set. I was one among the crowd.

The movie had stark visuals. A teacher sees a murder on a rainy night and the trauma he undergoes after that. It was not really a celebration of dialogues and actors. But the visual stuck in my head. Even after 15 years, I am able to recall that. That was a Bengali movie.

Those days, Sunday afternoon was the time people came to know about the rest of India. Even though Doordarshan was the only channel available, regional movies had a place in it. Fortunately, many of these Sunday movies were not driven by commercial interest. Parallel filmmakers often made their appearance in it. Now looking back, it seems, it was rather the glorious time of parallel cinema in the visual media.

Now is the era when people browse more than 100 channels and flip from one channel to another and watch more than one movie at a time. When the market started being driven by advertisers and sensibilities came to be measured by TRPs, we often see the same movie across channels, across languages. Watching a Malayalam channel or a Kannada one doesn't make much difference.

The place for parallel cinema is shrinking in our channels. Recently, print media has celebrated 50 years of Pather Panchali that set the path for Indian parallel cinema. Did any channel telecast this movie?

Our newspapers write about the barrage of movies shown in our channels. A close examination reveals that Indian parallel cinema is nowhere in this list. Cine-talks and interviews in channels often revolve around actors and superstars. Worse, we've had filmmakers who swear by making movies for the masses only. In the Seventies and Eighties, there were filmmakers who had the guts to say that cinema is the medium of a director. We now see people who call themselves entertainers. Isn't calling oneself an entertainer denying oneself as an artist?

On the other hand, we've had filmmakers who stood entirely for their medium, struggling to break even. Many of these movies won't even be shown in cinema halls, and even if it is, it will make hardly any money.

Visual media, particularly our channels, can do a commendable job by telecasting and promoting movies made by parallel filmmakers.

Newspapers must bring out write-ups on these movies. Let us not allow that parallel cinema to die because of our insensitivity and eagerness to please all and sundry.

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