Features of Indian Art Cinema
Indian art cinemas 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 are 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. 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.
Inception of Indian Art Cinema
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. Indian art 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 which are 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.
Prominent Indian Art Films
Today, art movies in India no longer differ from the mainstream films in popularity. 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. Thodasa Roomani Ho Jayen is another milestone depicting the tale an unmarriageable ugly girl. Hu Tu Tu exposes the politicians while Sookha is a realistic depiction of communal riots, politics and bureaucracy. Sushil Rajpal's Antardwand is another acclaimed film in this genre which portrays a real life experience. Kalpana Lazmi's Rudaali brilliantly presents the life and hardships of a woman who publicly express grief of family members who are restricted to display emotion owing to social status. 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. Other famed art movies of Bollywood include Ardh Satya, Suraj Ka Saatva Ghoda, Rajiv Patil's Jogwa (Marathi) and Aparna Sen's Sati (Bengali), Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai, Ankur, Parzania, Maya Darpan, Sardari Begum, Utsav, Ek Din Achanak, Ek Doctor Ki Maut and many more.
Directors of Indian Art 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, Kalpana Lazmi. All, from their distinctive vantage points, seek to cinematise important areas of Indian reality.
Evolution of Indian Art 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. 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.
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.