‘Poor quality prints, subtitles affecting brand Indian cinema in international circuit’

British film critic Derek Malcolm at BIFFes on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: G_P_Sampath Kumar

Why are so few Indian films making it to the international circuit? English film critic and historian Derek Malcolm, who was participating in an interaction between film makers and critics facilitated by FIPRESCI, a global collective of film critics, at the ongoing BIFFes, blamed it on poor quality prints and subtitles.

He pointed out that many universities were offering film studies degrees, but not many graduating would know about Indian films. “For years, India has suffered from dereliction of duty. [The film] The Lunchbox did everybody a great favour. It had good prints and subtitles. One film like that can help everybody. Even Ray's films’ prints were awful," he said.

N. Vidyashankar, artistic director, BIFFes, said even accessibility to better quality prints is a challenge, though the number of film festivals had grown multifold over the last two decades. He pointed to the technical glitches at BIFFes as an example.

S.V. Rajendra Singh Babu, Chairman, Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy, recounted how prints of fine films were entangled in a bureaucratic web in Karnataka. "Prints of 60 award winning films were lying in a godown in Badami House, but we were not allowed to touch them. But now that we have a new building, we will shift those prints and start the restoration process. The government has given ₹2 crore for the purpose," he said.

Mr. Malcolm assured the audience that there is hope. "Some young film makers (from India) have shown us their work. Standards have definitely gone up in the last few years," he said.

Film appreciation

An interaction with Mr. Malcolm would have been incomplete without the topic of film appreciation and critics, and the discussion was steered towards the instant review culture that has taken over today.

T.S. Nagabharana, a member of the Central Board of Film Certification said, “If the film is out at 10 a.m., a review will be out a few minutes later on the digital platform.”

Mr. Vidyashankar also pointed out to a new breed of film critics who do not depend on the job for livelihood, but do it out of interest.

It was necessary now for a different approach to film appreciation, said Mr. Nagabharana, which means measures must be taken to help people, even at the local and district levels too, develop taste and change attitudes and mindsets for the new kind of cinema.

Making a song and dance about it

The necessity of songs and dances in Indian films has for long been a topic for debate. Mr. Malcolm shared a funny story about it. “I was watching a Bollywood film in London. A man asked me how long I'll watch it for. I said, an hour. He turned out to be the director of the film. He said he'll stay for half-an-hour.”

But audience members were not willing to let go of songs and dances despite the length of the films. "There will be a hole if they are missing," he said.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 12:39:21 PM |

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