Can festivals escape popular cinema?

November 24, 2009

When Goa first hosted the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in 2004, it seemed there was no escaping Bollywood and its glamour.

Vidya Balan, Salman Khan, and a host of Bollywood stars were part of the event.

It led to vehement protests from delegates and guests at the festival who felt “unnecessary importance” was being given to popular cinema.

Over the years, organisers have tried to reduce the influence of Bollywood on the festival, saying they wanted to concentrate on “serious cinema”.

Yet we unfailingly see a Bollywood star inaugurating the festival, its premieres taking place and references being made to India’s most popular export at every stage.

Festival organisers admit that there is no escaping Bollywood, but say they have to maintain a balance. Where that balance lies, is something that most film lovers still struggle to answer.

As someone who has attended the festival for the last five years, I know that a lot of people who want to see “serious” cinema are the first ones to complain when there are no stars or red carpets taking place.

Should Bollywood be a part of “serious cinema”? Can a harmonious balance be achieved?

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I think not. Unlike European cine fans who converge on popular festivals to solely sample cinema that are made for an exclusive and premium audience, Bollywood and its influence on Indian fans is a different ball game alltogether.Bollywood reflects the multi-cultural, multi-lingual complexities of the people it portrays and I sincerely hope I don’t see a day when it is divorced from parallel cinema.”Popular Cinema” is really a paradox as I am sure art/non-commercial filmmakers do not make cinema for the sole purpose of rendering them extremely “unpopular” among the masses. So they will co-exist. Some will weep at poverty and child abuse, while some laugh at improbably cohesive families living in palacial houses.

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