Regional cinema is having its moment in the spotlight; and here's why
In conversation with Meenakshi Shedde on why regional cinema is doing so well.
Noted film critic and connoisseur Meenakshi Shedde has been the India and South Asia consultant for the Berlin International Film Festival since 1998 and is conducting a workshop in Mumbai on 'discovering new world cinema in India' on 25 June. In an interview with Firstpost, Meenakshi gave us an insight into why appreciation for regional cinema has come to the fore, of late. Excerpts:
Talk to us about the gradual change in attitudes towards regional cinema?
I think there are more people interested in watching regional cinema because the content of these films is very strong. If you look at the content of films in Marathi, Malayalam or Tamil cinema, the movies have both art house and blockbuster elements, which makes them extremely interesting.
Also we see that the younger crowd is more used to watching global cinema, say maybe Japanese and Iranian movies with subtitles. Similarly, they have started watching regional cinema because of the interesting content, even though the dialogues are in a language that they are not very well versed in because they are so much more open to experimenting and also fine with watching movies with subtitles.
What is the hold of regional cinema over mainstream Bollywood cinema?
Initially, people in India were 'language racist'. The older generation had a very limited access to movies and they preferred watching mainstream Bollywood movies that they had access to. There are a few box office hits that have surpassed the boundaries of being regional hits like Sairat. Now it seems the market has changed, and people are more open to watch movies that interest them, no matter what language they are in, as long as they have subtitles.
Do you think the digital era has helped to make regional cinema more accessible?
Definitely, the market for all sort of movies has grown now that movies are available online. Movies can be downloaded legally and illegally and that means more movies are being consumed by the audience. Regional cinema too, can be downloaded and watched anytime. Someone sitting in Delhi can watch a Tamil movie online if they want to, and that makes a big difference.
Also, the way films are made has completely changed. The switch from celluloid to digital makes it possible to change the way films are distributed -- films now can be sent from one place to another via satellite transmission.
Also international players like UTV Disney and Viacom 18 are producing regional movies in India; they have even set up offices in India to handle business here. Eros and Yash Raj Films followed, and now have big stakes in regional film industries.
How does this help?
Because films are distributed easily, it means that there will be more takers for the film. A Tamil film can make it's way to cinemas in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata easily. Even if you look at a ticket booking app in a metropolis like Mumbai, you will see the number of mainstream Bollywood films being shown is the same as the number of regional films being shown. The language barrier is being broken because of the internet and because people travel more and are up for seeing more interesting stuff.
Meenakshi's workshop 'Discovering New World Cinema in India' is being conducted on 25 June where she will be talking about regional directors winning international acclaim.