What is the downside of Indian cinema

CULTURE: Bollywood isn't everything

CULTURE: Bollywood isn't everything

In addition to Bollywood film, there is a lively Indian film landscape. Anurag Kashyap ("Gangs of Wasseypur") stands for a new generation of independent Indian filmmakers.

Bollywood, a word creation from Bombay - the dynamic financial capital of India, which is now called Mumbai - and Hollywood - the center of the US film industry - describes the world's largest film industry in the metropolis and also stands for Hindi-language commercial cinema in general.

An estimated 250 films are shot annually in the film studios north of Mumbai. If you add the film productions in all of India, you get 1,000 films per year. Bollywood films have an enormous reach: millions of Indians flock to the cinemas every week to watch the latest films, which are advertised with huge, often hand-painted movie posters. Bollywood also inspires millions of people in Africa, Asia and South America.

Film industry and genre

The most noticeable characteristic of the brightly colored, three-hour Bollywood films are the abrupt interruptions to the plot through long singing and dancing scenes. These scenes are not necessarily embedded in the film plot, they stand for themselves. The songs are often sung loudly by the audience, because the Indian entertainment industry cleverly markets the soundtrack for weeks before it opens in cinemas. But not only in the musical part of the Indian cinema culture is evident: If the hero fights his enemy, the audience insults the villain, if the fight is won, it cheers the hero. Popular cinema is an unparalleled event in India.

The plots - melodramatic love dramas stories of climbers and heroes, peppered with sentimentality, passion and action - often seem all too simple and predictable to western moviegoers, just like the stylized images of women and men alienate and the hair-raising fight scenes amuse.

In the West, Bollywood films are therefore often encountered either as trash or in loving irony. But Bollywood is more than simple cinema: It is (also) a seismograph of Indian culture. In this way, topics are repeatedly taken up that are central to the Indian world: religion, friendship, love, social inequality.

Regional film cultures

In addition to this Hindi-language commercial cinema, there was and still is a very different Indian film industry. “Bollywood is no more identical to Indian film than American film is to Hollywood,” says film scholar Georg Sesslen. All-Indian cinema is characterized by stylistic and thematic diversity - each region has its own film culture.

In the West, however, only those Indian directors who have conquered the western mainstream are known of this cinema, such as M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”), Shekhar Kapur (“Elizabeth”) or Gurinder Chadha (“Bend it Like Beckham »). But what about those smaller films that are being made in India? Do independent films even have a chance of finding an audience in India and abroad?

Whereas since the 50s and 60s there was still a narrow view of Indian filmmaking, in which Satyajit Rays films in particular that were based on Italian neorealism, meanwhile the whole breadth of independent Indian filmmaking has also found its way Films in view.

New interesting voices

“Bollywood will always exist,” says the young director of the film Gangs of Wasseypur, Anurag Kashyap, in an interview on YouTube. But in recent years there has been a change: "There is a great new movement in Indian filmmaking," said Kashyap. Independent, smaller film productions are attracting more and more audiences.

Many of these films, which are made outside of Bollywood, show cultures and languages ​​that have never been documented on film, and are shot in unknown regions. Gradually, these new and interesting voices in Indian filmmaking are also gaining attention outside of India and are being invited to film festivals in Locarno, Cannes, Venice and Toronto.

"A new generation of film buffs is finding a public with films somewhere between auteur cinema and commercial entertainment," explains Kasyhap. His current film epic also fits in there: With a budget of 45 million dollars and 340 actors, it is the most expensive Indian production to date without major actors. “Gangs of Wasseypur” is an example of a new, alert look at social and political issues - beyond Bollywood.

Sereina Steinemann

Indian Scorsese: "Gangs of Wasseypur"

The gangster saga by the Indian director Anurag Kashyap lasts more than five hours and therefore comes into cinemas in two parts (2nd part: October 3rd), whereby the first part can also be seen as an independent work.

Over several generations up to the present day, the lavishly staged film tells with grim humor of the conflict between two warring clans in an Indian provincial town. Inserted archival documents also visualize stages in the recent history of India.

Epic breath

The saga begins in the 1940s: gang leader Shahid Khan is murdered at the instigation of his rival Ramadir Singh. Khan's son Sardar Khan swears vengeance and in the following decades becomes the most feared man in Wasseypur. In his private life, however, he struggles to satisfy the demands of his children and his wives. The climax and conclusion of the first part is a plot of murder against the cruel gangster.

"Gangs of Wasseypur," which caused a stir in Cannes, has been compared to films by Scorsese and Tarantino, and the similarities in the portrayal of violence or in the grotesque tone are pretty obvious. Despite the sometimes confusing narrative strands and the numerous characters, the film also has an epic breath and provides insights into a foreign culture.

What is completely lacking in contrast to the American productions (and not necessarily to the disadvantage), however, is glamor: Unscrupulous gangsters who rob and murder in a poverty-ridden Indian city naturally have less sex appeal than unscrupulous "Goodfellas" or " Reservoir Dogs ”who do the same for a“ casino ”in Las Vegas

Peter Mosberger


Bourbaki 2, Lucerne