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The subaltern cinema within India

There are those amongst the Indian cinema landscape who share some of the subaltern characteristics. These are the filmmakers from Assam, Manipur, Goa, Maharashtra who are simply overlooked by the market forces. Will the recent efforts by the CII and FICCI help them? Theoretically, yes, the market should help any kind of cinema — afterall the function of late capital is to maximise itself and when cinema is viewed through the lens of segmented markets, you have finance managers salivating at the huge opportunity that lies in the regional markets. During the last edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), CII organised a Film Bazaar, which got together filmmakers from Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal and the northeast. Apparently, they have decided to form a forum for distribution of regional cinema in the country and allow independent filmmakers to share expertise.

Regional cinema players Ramesh Deo (Marathi), Rajendra Talak (Konkani), Suman Harpirya (from Assam), S.L. Dugar (Bengali), and Saibal Mitra (Bengali), participating in the bazaar, agreed to form a forum especially for the distribution of regional cinema. Speaking on Konkani films, Rajendra Talak said that the regional films are losing their originality and it is moving towards the mainstream industry. He argued that the government should mandate theatres to screen regional-language movies. Now that is the approach that is a double-edged sword. One can see their point, especially in the face of the onslaught of mainstream cinema, which is quite Hollywood-like in its hegemony. However, Deo, Talak, Harpriya, Dugar, Mitra may completely miss the point when they obsess with protectionism. A close examination of the kind of films they make is revelatory of the real issue – content and the shifting goalposts called audience. Such efforts should also focus on capacity building and understanding ways to exploit segmented markets through new distribution channels facilitated by new communications technologies and multiplexes. Instead, we go down the familiar route of quotas and protection. By capacity building I mean film education at various levels. Where are the film journals, film education in schools, colleges, and universities?

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