Indian Art Cinema differs sharply from popular films which are more commonly known as the commercial flicks. The conceptual notion of art cinema though differs from being one of the fuzziest to one of the contradictory topics ever touched upon. They are realistic, often ethnographic, and they seek to capture important aspects of Indian reality. By and large, they avoid glamour and glitz and use cinema as an artistic medium capable of exploring important areas of Indian experience.
They are usually low budget and are shown at international film festivals. The Indian art movies, understandably, do not attract the huge audiences that the popular films do. Often many regional films
made, which do not receive pan-Indian exposure. In terms of the commitment to serious cinema, to making cinema a significant medium of artistic communication, to eschewing the vulgarities and crudities often associated with Indian popular cinema, artistic filmmakers differ significantly from their counterparts in popular cinema.
Art is mimesis, according to Aristotle, which is nourished by the concepts of twice placed reality. And cinema is the reel adaptation of the real. Discourses of the art house cinema have obviously two poles: as mode of narration and as institution.
When one talks of art movies in India the first name that comes up is Satyajit Ray
. This is because he was primarily responsible for fashioning this genre and gaining international recognition for it. His film Pather Panchali
, made in 1955, was the first such film. In a poll conducted in 1992 by the magazine Sight and Sound, Pather Panchali was voted one of the ten greatest films of all time.
These films offer a striking contrast to Indian popular films. They use understatement effectively, something totally absent in popular films. There is a visual lyricism and a deep humanism that sophisticated cinema lovers the world over find intensely satisfying. Satyajit Ray made a number of significant films in the same moulds that have won international acclaim. His work provides a sense of the preoccupations of artistic cinema and how they differ from popular cinema. Satyajit Ray is generally regarded as India`s greatest filmmaker and, along with Jean Renoir and Vittorio de Sica, he is rated among the great masters of humanist cinema.
A number of highly gifted Indian film directors
are associated with the artistic cinema like Adoor Gopalakrishnan
, Vijaya Mehta
, Buddhaheb Dasgupta, Ritwik Ghatak
, Govind Nihalani
, Shyam Benegal
, Mrinal Sen
, Ketan Mehta
, Kumar Shahani
, Mani Kaul, Aparna Sen
, Aravindan, Gautam Ghose
, Shaji Karun
. All, from their distinctive vantage points, seek to cinematise important areas of Indian reality. Adoor Gopalakrishnan`s film, Rat Trap (1981) has won many prestigious awards and in his film Face to Face (1984), Gopalakrishnan explores the theme of self and modernization, this time taking a different angle. Once again the style of the film follows the neo-realistic tradition.
As one seeks to identify the distinguishing features of Indian films
, one needs to keep in mind the main characteristics of its two main branches - the popular and the art movies. Both relate to the Indian reality and consciousness, but in very different ways. The techniques of popular cinema are largely shaped by traditional narrative, whereas those of the artistic cinema are Western in nature, largely neo-realistic. However, in terms of the experiences explored, the artistic films are much closer to Indian reality than the popular films, which are mostly fantasies. Various issues that are central to a deep understanding of contemporary Indian society find expression in artistic cinema.
From the very inception of this genre there was a difference between art and commercial cinema. However with changing times this gap has been bridged. The themes of art movies have witnessed a change. The earlier trends in Indian art movies were more specifically related to the Indian audience while the recent incline is towards a global concept. Quite ideally therefore Indian art cinema has gradually emerged itself as a reflection of the happenings in the society.
Today, Art movies in India no longer differ from the mainstream films. The audiences today look out for good films rather than popular or serious films. Hence while a multi-starrer Indian movie bombs at the box office, a film like Aamir is much appreciated by the cine goers. The need for better subjects, the desire to watch something more feasible on screen and the boredom that has set in with the regular candy floss drama are some of the reason for this apparent change in the preferences of the audience. If this trend stays the so called Indian art movies will definitely witness a boom in the near future.