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Parallel Tracks: Popular and Art Cinema

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By: Arya Aiyappan
Friday, January 05, 2007
A major milestone in Indian culture, cinema embodies the creative spirit of our country. In India both 'popular' and 'serious' cinema co-exist. 'Popular', 'commercial', or 'mainstream' cinema branded as "masalas", are fashioned according to a hackneyed formula - a fusion of song, dance, and spectacle, - to create an illusory world. 'Artistic' or 'serious' films experiment to portray a realistic picture of a fragment of Indian reality.

Commercial cinema projects a larger than life image with marvellous sets, glitzy costumes, enlivening music, exhilarating dance, vivacious action sequences and glamorous actors of mainstream cinema as in Karan Johar's Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Yash Chopra's Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai, Sooraj R Barjatya's Hum Saath-Saath Hain, etc, whereas artistic films like Jagmohan Mundra's Bawandar, Kalpana Lajmi's Rudaali describe the lives of the ordinary people through 'invisible style' of shot centering, unobtrusive camera, continuity of image, frame balance and sequential editing to leave a lasting imprint of reality on the audience' minds. Commercial cinema and serious cinema use diverse technical strategies suitable for a specific cinematic atmosphere.

The main audience of the commercial cinema, the 'watching group' comprises of the common people fed with the larger-than-life dreams of the celluloid world but denied of opportunities by the harsh realities of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna and Rudaali are virtually on opposite tracks with regard to theme and style. Serious cinema adheres to a plain style of narration of a significant theme to communicate the message to a select audience. Songs and dances are included only if the story deems it necessary.

The stupendous success of the blockbusters like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham are attributed to the state-of-the-art technologies employed, exotic locations selected for shooting, effective distribution channels, and simultaneous release throughout the country. Artistic films Rudaali and Pinjar devoid of glamour and glitz failed to elicit a nationwide popularity due to their grave theme, simple presentation and poor marketing style without much hype. Artistic films and commercial films shall co-exist as long as love for cinema is nurtured.

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