Multiplicity in Motion: Th e Rise of India’s New Independent Cinema
SACF’s 12th Phalke Memorial Lecture: ‘Multiplicity in Motion: Th e Rise of India’s New Independent Cinema’ deals with the rise of a new kind of Indian fi lms. Th e emergence of a new wave of independent Indian fi lms since 2010 is revolutionising Indian cinema. Contemporary scholarship on Indian cinema thus far has focused asymmetrically on Bollywood - India’s dominant cultural signifi er.
With multiple stories spanning the diverse demographic and geopolitical spectrum of everyday human experience, this lecture, by Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram explores ‘the new Indian Indies as a glocal hybrid fi lm form - global in aesthetic and local in content.’ Ashwin argues that the new Indies have emerged from a middle space between India’s globalising present and traditional past.
The new Indies’ paradoxical ethos is epitomised in their circumvention of Bollywood ‘song and dance’ sequences on the one hand and their incorporation of exoteric promotion and marketing strategies on the other, unlike their esoteric 1970s and 1980s Parallel art-house cinema predecessors such as Mani Kaul and Kumar Shahani. In the absence of an autonomous Indie distribution infrastructure, new independent fi lms oft en have to rely on big corporate production houses or Bollywood producers and stars to enhance their visibility and saleability. However, the Indies share a common trait with their Parallel cinema forebears – they narrate both alternative narratives and narratives of alterity.
Films such as Peepli Live (2010), Harud (2010), I Am (2010), Fandry (2013) Th e Lunchbox (2013) and Ship of Th eseus (2013) all espouse themes and issues that discursively engage with the contemporary ‘state of the nation’. Some subversive Indies, such as Bengali fi lm Gandu (2010) transgress normative notions of ‘traditional Indian values’ and hence encounter state censorship and regulation.
Drawing from in-depth interviews with directors, actors, academics and members of the Indian Central Board of Film Certifi cation (CBFC) across Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai, the lecture will try to contextualise the newIndies’ emergence in a Bollywood-dominated Indian cultural milieu.