On the third of May 1913, Dadasaheb Phalke showed his film Raja Harishchandra at Coronation Cinema, then Bombay. It was a silent film.
Sometime in April 2013, a 24 hour news channel brought out a list of 100 greatest Indian films ever made. The introduction to this slideshow spectacle was humble and apologetic; like how they wished they could include more films and that this hundred were selected due to lack of space.
So basically the greatest 100 films we ever made are finally decided not on merit, but based on space availability.
Although the intention of this piece is not to find fault in the noble minds who put out this list, but where else can we express our irritation other than our very own blog.
For the past few weeks, every channel and publication had its own set of experts trying to come up with a sort of comprehensive list of the greatest Indian films, the list aforementioned had 40 Bollywood films or the Hindi film industry counting ‘Pushpak’<on the sides of which the description reads as such “Directed by Singeetham Srinivasa Rao, the film is a silent black comedy. This Hindi film tells the story of an unemployed young man”> Look buddies, you may take me for a lingual separatist but how did a silent black comedy become a Hindi film? It is not a Hindi production even.
We are not against Bollywood films and we welcome the josh in which you have suddenly realized that this cinema of ours is worth celebrating, and we are not even going into the credibility of these movies you have selected. But what we are irritated about is “oh shit we have to include at least one film from this language so as to look fair” attitude, and it is not for the Tamil films for which we are ranting.
To each his own cinema.
By virtue of being a vast and multicultural nation, we understand the difficulties and tensions in creating a sort of all inclusive list, so even 100 Bollywood films in that list would have been fine with us and so on for other regional languages(if you had the time and space).
So from all the above mentioned ranting, we have come to a decision that these celebrations are nothing but time fillers, empty commemorations that mean nothing; and this includes the southern media too, besides some stray specials the south has not shown much enthusiasm in celebrating this century. Whether this is indifference reciprocated? No one can say.
But what are we celebrating, really?
‘To Each His Own Cinema’ was a commissioned anthology film celebrating sixty years of the Cannes Festival, where filmmakers were invited to present a film as a sort of love letter to the screen, needless to say that none of our filmmakers were featured; while the far east and the middle east got many nods.
All right, you do not want to be judged from the foreign eyes and you will wish to stand in your incomparable emerald palace. You do not want to be compared, but what is the respect you give to your own films?
The fact that Raja Harishchandra to this day remains a partially lost film (only few reels are available) is just one of the many examples of the respect with which we have treated our filmmakers and films.
But shouldn’t we celebrate?
Yes,and much like that chocolate ad; you only need a reason. We could have celebrated even 47 years of Gemini Circus or some such thing.
But our only request is don’t make shitty lists like “100 best films”, “100 best scenes in 100 years” and “100 best rain drenched heroines” and the like, don’t fool yourselves. Every Indian can make 100 such personal lists and be happy about it.
And no polls, please.
Go and celebrate, we are not stopping you. If this celebration opens to you another door through which more visionaries and movies are discovered, then there is point in celebrating. But we don’t think any cinematic discovery of that sort will happen with rest of India hidden behind Bollywood’s screaming arc lights.