Monday, January 08, 2007

Popular Cinema - Emerging Trends

A few weeks back I happened to attend a lecture on ‘Popular Cinema in the Indiancontext’. For a south Indian, the meaning of Popular Cinema will be clearer than the popular cinema-goer of the North. Rajnikant has only recently been listed as the second most paid actor in Asia after Jackie Chan. The image of popular cinema is the same anywhere in India. People swarming the cinema halls, high rate of ticket sales in black market, emerging fads in college campuses etc. are associated with our thinking about popular cinema; a phenomenon which is unimaginably simple, if explained with Freudian identification theory. However, in our State the situation is different. Kerala, with a better percentage of literacy, has a different take on Popular Cinema. In the last five years or so, a good number of campuses have witnessed students producing films inside the campus. For me, this is an altogether new way of interpreting Popular Cinema. Cinema is no longer a medium for the actors and producers to get richer, but something which has become popular among the people. Spectator is no more na├»ve, neither is he at the receiving end of the hypodermic needle. He makes use of his own visual tools and video equipment either to challenge the influence of existing cinema culture or to narrate a story of his own, no matter what it falls into.

When I was in Kerala last October, I met one of my friends from our church going group. He is three-four years junior to me and for the last few years I didn’t have any knowledge about his whereabouts. Trying my luck in different professions I had reached a video production house in Delhi where I was finally appointed as a trainee video editor. I was not receiving any money for the reason that I was supposedly given a chance to learn video editing. With long cherished dream of becoming a film-maker I had always looked at the digital video cameras in the production house with respect though I have never touched them. No body ever bothered to teach camera operations to me and I waited there – there is less work to be done in my area, video editing – for my turn at some time in the future, near or far. I asked my friend, about whom I have come to a preliminary conclusion that a story of financial success is round the corner, what he is doing now. He said he has set up a videoproduction house with camera units and editing software. Family ceremonies are his prime business revenue. “Earlier we had to go to Ernakulam to get the whole wedding video edited and titled with special effects. Now I am doing everything at home. We have also undertaken some projects for music videos, tele-films etc.” He said he is using Sony PDI70 to shoot even wedding; the camera which was considered so great in Delhi is being used for Wedding Videography in Kerala.

The message was clear to me, shooting a motion picture has ceased to be a big task in the modern era. More than that, shooting broadcast quality pictures is also within the reach of common man. Post production process is not restricted to big production houses alone. On the other hand, it has been diffused into society. People use it for making money, for expressing themselves and for fulfilling various artistic and aesthetic needs. But we need a better theoretical model to understand the situation. The theoretical model we have followed to study the influence of popular cinema from a political and sociological angle must also include this emerging situation.