Prajjal Saha

“Meaningful films are ludicrously called ‘parallel’ cinema,” says Shyam Benegal

The noted filmmaker, Shyam Benegal, was speaking at the 4th Subhas Ghosal Foundation Lecture on how sensibilities have evolved over the years in Indian cinema

“It’s unfortunate that critics have given meaningful films the ludicrous label of ‘parallel’ cinema,” said the noted film director, Shyam Benegal, while addressing the 4th Annual Subhas Ghosal Foundation Lecture held in Mumbai on September 6.

Talking about the differentiating factor between art films and commercial cinema, Benegal said, “Popular Hindi cinema works towards getting a predictable response from the audience. It can’t afford to be disturbing, or to shake any fondly held views, attitudes and beliefs. By its very nature, mainstream popular cinema is for the status quo and, therefore, traditionalist.”

He added, “When I started making films in the 1970s, I felt that if cinema had to have any artistic merit, it would have to go against this traditional cinema. And this wasn’t an easy choice to make 35 years ago.”

Highlighting various aspects of Indian cinema and advertising, Benegal said that Indian advertising has made extensive use of semiotic devices. He cited the examples of products such as wrist watches and pens, which have moved up from being utilitarian products to fashion accessories, and motorcycles, which aren’t just transport vehicles any more – “they denote masculinity”.

Benegal also commented on the role of Satyajit Ray in Indian cinema, saying, “Rabindranath Tagore once said that every art seeks to find its own independent manner of expression within the world it creates, and no creative genius has yet arrived to deliver it from its bondage. Well, I think a creative genius did arrive in the 1950s, in the form of Satyajit Ray. In fact, his impact on cinema was so monumental that we look at cinema as ‘Before Ray’ and ‘After Ray’. His films were not necessarily entertaining in the same way as mainstream cinema, but they were deeply engaging.”

The evening of September 6 witnessed a horde of advertising and media folk gather under one roof. Benegal, as the key speaker at the event, delivered a lecture on ‘Communications and Culture: Tradition, Modernity and Postmodernism in Indian Cinema’.

The opening address was delivered by Titoo Ahluwalia, founder trustee, Subhas Ghosal Foundation, in which he explained the purpose of the Foundation and the various projects and publications in which it plays an active part. Ahluwalia said, “Subhas Ghosal always believed that learning had many beginnings, but no end. That is precisely the objective of the foundation – to encourage learning.”

More than 200 people, including industry stalwarts such as Gopa Ghosal, Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Joshi, Sam Balsara, Alyque Padamsee, Mike Khanna, MG Parmeswaran, Ameen Sayani, Ishan Raina, Ashutosh Srivastava, Siddharth Kothari and Nihar Kothari graced the event.

Speaking on the evolution of Hindi films over the years, Benegal said, “Now, in the postmodern era, mass media has become all-pervading and culturally dominating. There are no longer clear distinctions any more between cultural, social and economic spaces. In fact, culture has become a big business as film stars have now become brands.”

He added, “Reality is being constructed for us by the media today in many ways, be it television soap operas, commercials, film songs, newspapers offering infotainment, or advertising. One sees more advertising than architecture in most Indian cities and towns.”

“The new slogan is ‘Greed is Good’. Whoever makes money is the star; the poor simply fall off the map. All this is reflecting in our Indian cinema. ‘Bunty Aur Babli’ and ‘Sarkar’ are prime examples of postmodern Hindi cinema. The lifestyle signals emphasise conspicuous consumption rather pointedly,” he concluded.

The event was sponsored by 'Rajasthan Patrika' (which is also celebrating 50 years of existence this year) and ITC, and supported by Ad Club Mumbai and

© 2005 agencyfaqs!

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