Indian Indie Film is a film without songs.©

Cinema in India is a mass industry and belongs to the most important forms of entertainment. Colourful Bollywood films provide the picture of glamour and kitsch, a perfect world where the singing and dancing never stop and all the love stories have inevitable happy endings. On the other hand, Indian independent cinema brings the audience back to reality and reflects more on real life and the true experiences of people. Indie films challenge the stereotypes of Bollywood and expose the themes that are either ignored or avoided in the Bollywood production. There are themes that deal with class inequality, communal violence, the gap between rich and poor, and problems of  caste division.

That’s why Indian independent cinema is more popular outside India. The Indian people prefer the more escapist cinema of Bollywood; people just don’t want to pay to see a film about poverty when they have to face poverty every day in their lives. Indie films and especially hit Indian documentaries are more interesting for the audience abroad so as to see the real life in India.

The Indian independent film movement, or Indian New Wave, began at almost exactly the same time as French New Wave and was influenced by French poetic realism. Neecha Nagar (1946) directed by Chetan Anand was the first effort in social realism in Indian cinema and it was the first film from India which received the Grand Prix Award as the Best Film at the first edition of Cannes Film Festival in 1946. This gave the independent filmmakers an opportunity to show their films at different international film festivals and therefore to reach the global audience.

To the classical and most famous Indian indie films belong The Apu Trilogy (1955-1959) directed by Satyajit Ray which consists of three films: Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road), Aparajito (The Unvanquished) and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu). In the focus of the film is a coming-of-age story of young Bengali boy Apu who describes his psychological and moral growth during childhood and through maturity. The Apu Trilogy is called to be “the finest film ever” and won numerous awards at Cannes, Venice, Berlin and London film festivals.

In the 90s the independent cinema in India faced a crisis. The amount of independent film production studios and companies shrank dramatically. The reasons for that were the end of governmental support and rising film productions charges. Only after some big-budget Bollywood films had flopped and caused great losses, the Indian film industry was open again for low-budget independent films. Ironically there were Bollywood stars who have decided to support indie cinema. Aamir Khan’s production company released, for example, Peepli Live (2010) directed by Anusha Rizvi. This comic satire on the real-life epidemic of farmer suicides was the first film from India which competed in the Sundance Film Festival.

All in all there are changes that move people to give their attention more to independent cinema. For example, Indian youth generation provide for low-budget films an opportunity to become box office success if they deal with problems of youth in modern society. Economical changes and globalization make the filmmakers also more creative and forward thinking. As a result they are interested in working with independent cinema and producing the films that are characterized by diversity and inventive storytelling.

ÉCU looks forward to watching and screening more Indian indie films in 2013!

Xenia Piskunova

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