‘Bollywood is cautious with politics’

Film academician Rachel Dwyer was in the city to deliver an R&D lecture series on her book. Photo: M. Moorthy   | Photo Credit: M_Moorthy

Film academician Rachel Dwyer, whose books and essays on Hindi cinema are widely cited in film journals across the world, rues the fact that there is very little scholarship on Tamil cinema, citing it as a reason for it not receiving much attention compared to Bollywood.

Prof Dwyer, who is a professor of Indian Cultures and Cinema at SOAS, University of London, was in the city to deliver the final R&D lecture series on her book Picture Abhi Baaki Hain: Bollywood as a guide to Modern India, at IIT-Madras.  

Speaking to The Hindu, she said the identification of Bollywood as being representative of Indian cinema could be explained by the fact that it interprets India as a whole to the audience, while Tamil or Telugu film industries make movies about local cultures.

“The beginning of the 1990s saw the beginning of the Khan-era coinciding with the new era of film music, which, thanks to composers such as A.R. Rahman, became more contemporary and funky. Suddenly, nobody was talking about Satyajit Ray, but were enamoured by colourful Bollywood films. I remember seeing the Tamil film Kandukondein Kandukondein, which was shown at the London Film Festival and got a good response. Yet, it still couldn’t get a mainstream release in London,” she said.

 Prof Dwyer said analysis of commercial cinema offers insights into the collective fantasies of the nation.

What does she make of Bollywood’s continuous attempts to caricature people of the south and the minorities? “The films aspire to reflect the ideas of the audience they are speaking to. It’s mostly down to the fact that those from the north find south Indian cultures alien and different. You have Bollywood films talking about or dealing with the Kargil conflict, but they don’t really deal with the IPKF intervention in Sri Lanka.”

 When asked about Bollywood’s depiction of the political issues in India, Prof Dwyer said the industry was cautious. “It is unlike the Tamil industry where films deal with politics explicitly. Bollywood has made a few films about gangsters or about extreme right-wing parties, but they are mostly cautious. For instance, Bollywood movies barely mention caste,” she said.

Commenting on the continuous attempts by social groups at re-censoring a movie, or to stop its screening and forcefully ban it, she said there was a clear difference between hate speech — which includes racial or casteist elements, and those that incite violence — and critical films that supposedly hurt sentiments.

“The filmmakers are mostly conservative. They don’t want their films to be banned. India has evolved quite a robust censor mechanism. However, there must be a standardisation in the way films are censored throughout India.”

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Printable version | Oct 11, 2021 4:03:17 AM |

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