The Golden Age of Indian Cinema

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The more often you visit a multiplex, the better you feel about the state of Indian Cinema (sorry, I detest the use of ‘Bollywood’). Week after week, the kind of options that a multiplex is providing to the average Indian viewer is almost astounding. Gone are the days when one mega-budget film – though not necessarily good- would dominate for weeks on end while killing the small budget, niche movies completely. Today, because of the opening of the market, it has become a level playing field for everyone. And this is not only promoting competition but also genuinely good cinema. Yes, the art cinema scene or the parallel cinema circuit of the country has always been there and has always been making great, great cinema. Its just that it has been obscure. Now, its coming into the limelight and is sharing screen space equally with the so called mainstream masala movies.
I remember going in to watch the critically loved ‘Lunchbox’. I was expecting a near – empty theater so it was a very pleasant surprise when more than half the theater was full. According to me there are two factors which are responsible for this paradigm shift – firstly, the growth of the multiplex culture around the country and secondly the widening horizons of the average Indian viewer. Lets look at both these things one by one.
Almost a decade ago ( yes, it has been that long! Doesn’t seem like it though ) the multiplex culture hit India like a tsunami and very soon we had big and small malls sprouting across the nation and the number of screen and movies we had access to increased manifold. Suddenly the art cinema / meaningful cinema / parallel cinema ( choose the term which is correct according to you ) got to be at the same kind of level which was earlier enjoyed solely by big-budgeted, production house backed fare. The exposure these usually small budget movies started getting was exponential as compared to earlier. The content of this area of movies was never in question, it had always been brilliant, just that now it was reaching the masses too as opposed to the select audience that it was catering to earlier. it breathed life and the much needed finances into the parallel cinema world. And that probably is the reason that today so many of our films are doing well, not only at home and in festivals, but in the mainstream international market as well.
Secondly, with time, the mindset of the Indian audience has become broadened quite a lot – from something as masala and mainstream as, say, Dabangg to something as brilliant yet different as the recent Hawaa Hawai both as welcome with open arms by the audience. The kind of acceptance that the audience has now started to show to more meaningful cinema has even made very filmi, very mainstream actors and actresses to venture into this off beat area. More and more actors, directors, producers, even technicians are breaking out of the shackles of rigid / boy-meets-girl / dhishum dhisum/ song and dance cinema and venturing into the unknown. That is what makes the NOW of Indian cinema so very exciting. And this has blurred the divide between art/parallel/etc cinema and mainstream, masala cinema – now what works at the box office is good cinema, as simple as that. Here is a little list of movies of recent times that belong to the good cinema list that are a must watch –

lunchbox                                luvshuv                                     madrascafe
1. SHIP OF THESEUS : Cinematographic-ally alone, this movie get a 100 on 10 – yes, it is that brilliant! Directed by Anand Gandhi and released by Kiran Rao in a select few cities, this movie was showcased how the market for such cinema is opening up, one city at a time.
2. SHAHID : Based on the true story of slain human rights activist Shahid Azmi, this film by Hansal Mehta was highly acclaimed and received a lot of support from the industry as well.
3. LUV SHUV TEY CHICKEN KHURANA : a thoroughly enjoyable film, it captures the essence of a dysfunctional Punjabi family along with the hero’s ‘Vilayati dream’ going kaput. He finds love, while searching for the elusive chicken recipe of his grandfather!
4. ENGLISH VINGLISH : when a star as huge and as revered as Sridevi chooses to make her comeback in such a movie you know things are good! A highly enjoyable little movie about the pressures of learning the English language, this is sure to leave you with huge smile on your face.
5. MADRAS CAFÉ : this was the perfect combination of a perfect script, great direction and brilliant performances coming together. Shoojit Sircar managed to keep the audience at the edge of their seats throughout.
6. FUKREY : this movie had absolutely no huge actor or actress in its star cast (Richa Chaddha, Vishakha Singh, Pulkit Samrat and Priya Anand carried the entire film on their shoulders) and managed to gross over 30 crores at the box office. A fun film, all the way.

So head to the nearest multiplex or stream any one of the above mentioned features, get yourself a tub of popcorn and enjoy your time at the movies!