The Lunchbox released on Friday in India. The praise is starting to pour in. Reminds me of the time when Shaitaan was released and everyone went mad over a film where all they did was use slow-motion which apparently blew off people’s minds. Still, since I have not yet seen the film I won’t comment on it. My problem is that whenever a good movie comes out, and I’m going with the majority in calling it good, everyone seems to just jump on the bandwagon and start making statements like “this is real cinema” or “cinema should be like this”. Seriously, these are the same people when you ask them their favourite films, they will give you a list that comprises of each and every Govinda release from the 90s.
The point is, and this is obviously not just about Indian films, that cinema is such a diverse art that you cannot under any circumstances make a film stand on a pedestal and say this is how movies should be made. Every film, no matter how good, how bad, or how much immersed in mediocrity has its rightful place. There is no denying that cinema can be good or bad, but then that comes down to personal opinion. We all talk about our guilty pleasures and films that are so bad that they are good, so there is obviously something that these films achieve. Let’s face it, even porn has a place and a reason to be part of cinema.
When I speak about Indian cinema with people who are not from the country, the most common reason for not watching Indian films is that they are perceived as musicals. To each his own, but I argue about the importance for three hour long films in our society and how music, dance, comedy, romance, and drama are essential. Film watching is primarily a family/friend outing in our country and thus a three hour film, even though it might drag beyond belief, is considered to be more about getting your money’s worth and forgetting for a while about your everyday worries. So a film like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun with 14 odd songs is as essential as a film like Black that focuses more on story and acting and sending out a message that isn’t too obvious. The same could also be said for films like Grand Masti which obviously cater to a certain younger crowd with its raunchy testosterone filled scenarios and films like Udaan which are more metropolitan in their appeal and doesn’t hide away from challenging the audience to think.
Films are made with an audience in mind. Take Chennai Express for example; I still in all honesty don’t know people who would have gone and watched this film since I could not even stand the trailer. Again, I haven’t watched the film so I won’t comment on it much. Now why is it that this film is one of the highest grossing films of all time in India right now? Shouldn’t we then say “this is real cinema” because unless the trade analysts are lying obviously a vast majority of people went and saw this film. I know you may argue that it opened up in many theatres etc., but in the end it was the audience who decided to buy the ticket and watch the film. Even if you blame is on “star power”, I say the power was given by you, the audience, to these very stars.
So what exactly is “real cinema”? Is every film that YOU like as an individual classify as real cinema? Or is it only films that get critical acclaim that can claim the title of being “real cinema”? Better yet, what about international fame, isn’t what we all really care about unfortunately, some sort of approval from the West to tell us that our cinema is as good as theirs? Is “real cinema” in our country also considered “real cinema” elsewhere?
There is no end to the questions. Anyone who considered themselves to be a true cinephile in the most minute sense should be open to all cinema. To disregard one film just on the basis of songs or subtitles or being in Black& White is a huge loss to cinema and the character of the said person. Everyone has the right to an opinion, and talking and defending your opinions is what makes this art all the more special, but under no circumstances anyone has the right to point at one film and make an élan that “this is real cinema”, because if you do say that, then you have no clue what cinema is or what it is meant to do.