This was going to be a comment on Sethumadhavan’s post on regional cinema. As my comment was getting longer, I thought it would be great to write a post. Here are my views on regional film and why it is failing to reach out.
The author mentions that some good regional films do not find a release, I do not know how the author defines a good or a bad film As most of the regional films be it Malayalam, Tamil, Bhojpuri, Punjabi and Telugu films have released in Mumbai, barring one or two at the most. This might be because producers realise that the financial returns for these films are non-existent.
The author talks about the new trend of bundling rights, as if it is a sin and the producer has no right to do so or the distributor does not how to market the film.The primary player and the only one I know is Goldmine which does that only for action films the kind which you see in Set Max.I do not think a general audience is interested in substandard stuff like Billa and Vedalam or even a Bairava. The author also seems to agree on that, when he mentions mass films as he likes to call them films like Katamarayudu does not need subtitles.
I guess the author is confused and contradicting himself and making his own definition of mass and art house films based on his cinematic preferences.The author mentions films like Ezra released in Ranchi but fails to mention the collections, was it sustainable for the stakeholders? If yes, how much?
The Problem-Subtitling Woes
Subtitles let us face it are a distraction for most average cinemagoers. The author goes a step ahead and say that subtitles for certain films like Katamarayudu is not needed, because he feels it is a commercial film. Malayalam films like Take Off and Oru Mexican Aparatha needs to be subtitled, who makes such distinctions and on what basis? Oru Mexican Aparatha and Take Off are commercial and mass films and they were marketed as such in Kerala. For the record many Malayalam films including Take Off had more number of screens than say a Mukti Bhawan in Mumbai.
The author mentions sub titlist like Rekhs. I had taken my friend for Lingaa, and he was laughing, mind you not at the comedy scenes but at the subtitles. “With my domes, I invade your armour” this is one of the gems of the subtitilist, most of the subtitles are just literal transliteration and do not add anything of value to the film. I wonder why author altogether skipped speaking about the bad quality of subtitles.
The Problem-Multiplex Programming & Producer’s Rationale
The author states small regional films do not get perfect prime time slot. Why should a theatre owner do that, when there is no market or demand. If there is, they will screen, in early 90’s regional films used to get an odd Sunday morning show, but see now most big movies gets good number of shows. Truth is there is no demand or enough people do not turn up to watch such films and why should they sacrifice their earnings at the end of the day they have to pay taxes and wages to the staff. The author conveniently skips the fact that small films find it difficult to find theatres even in home states.
The author seems to adopt a snobbish attitude and makes a comment that some of the programming managers are not cinema literate. Now I do not know what cinema literate means, does that mean programming guys should be aware who is Fellini or Ray. Further, the author fails to support this point by not giving any facts. Has any programmer lost the revenue as he or she might have not given an indie film a prime time?
The author again has a problem with people going gaga over world cinema and not regional cinema. Let me be brutally honest we make very few good films,if we look at global standards. Look at the films which has come out of Iran and South Korea and look at films like Vedalam. How many Indian films from MAMI has made waves on the global film scene or even in theatres, I can frankly say it is not even in two digits.
Why Some Films Work, Some Don’t?
The Author seems to be imply that a particular kind of film works with a limited set of audience. To be precise he is saying films which has Tartinoseque flavour like Angamaly Diaries or Kammatipaadam. The author alleges that people like these kind of movies due to ” it is not something too complex, the films that receive better patronage or acceptance are perhaps due to a celebrity supporting or endorsing it (like an Angamaly Diaries)” As if films like Drishyam or Premam were approved by Bollywood celebrities. It is insulting to the intelligence of the audience if author feels that people like a film due to Anurag Kashyap liking it.If that was the case Bombay Velvet would have been a blockbuster.
Power of Social Media
The author points out that regional films have created an impact outside their home territory. Barring Hindi no regional films have made inroads outside their home territory. Yes, the diaspora and migrant population of respective states watch these films at selected pockets and theatres. Does an average cinema goer watch these films,, the answer to it is a big no?
Sorry to say this social media is an expensive affair, it is not cost efficient compared to traditional media. Trending of most South films (read Tamil Films) are like #Vijay60 or #Thala69. It is mostly bot affair and done by influencers, anyone who has a reasonable knowledge of trending will know this and can spot such profiles quickly.
To conclude, let me say there is a huge misconception that regional cinema produces lot of good film, it is not the case. we can not impose people to what they want to watch or what they should watch.Commercial reality will dictate screens and shows at cinema screen. It is good some films get exposure due to Anurag Kashyap and more and more people come to watch it, eventually they may discover more films or not, it is not necessary they need to consume every film like a mindless consumer in theatre every weekend.They can watch it on mobile, Amazon Prime and many other avenues to watch movies. Till then I trust in Kashyap, there is nothing to be ashamed or worried about that.