Cinema and the Changing Times

Shyam Benegal talks on how cinema has changed over the time and how the media has played a major part in it.

As viewers we have often benchmarked feature films into two distinct sections – commercial and art house. More often than not,it is noticed that the so called “art house” cinema have been left out from the audience’s wish list while they love to gorge on the likes of Sholays and DDLJs ! However directors like Shyam Benegal never really give it up. When Benegal started out in the movie industry, he believed he had an audience for his kind of films and the belief is only getting stronger.

Citing example of the recently released Love Sex aur Dhoka, Shyam Benegal says it would have been difficult to imagine making a film like that twenty years ago. But with the increasingly absorbing media people today have started experimenting more with their choice of cinema viewing. “Today the audience is far more exposed to media. When I had started to make films we didn’t even have the television. Cinema was a single medium of visual entertainment and there were not too many cinema halls either. Today people are much more exposed to media and hence the willingness to try out different stuff.Otherwise, a film like Love Sex aur Dhoka, if made at all, would have only been made for a personal audience and would never be released!” he says.

As the director’s latest film Well Done Abba, a satire on the babudom of the country, releases to some great response from critics and a decent acceptance from the audience Benegal only smiles on. “Every film is meant to make money for itself. If a film is not commercial that would mean it is subsidized. You really can’t have a film which is not meant to make money unless you make it for your personal reasons and shoot it on mobile phones or regular handy cams,” says the director.

A man who has always gone on to shoot a film only when he has a bound script says it is important however to know what budget suits your films before deciding on how much to spend. “Some people tend to believe that spending a lot of money brings back bigger amounts of money. It does not necessarily translates to big profits always. Of course we have movies like 3 Idiots which bring in unprecedented returns but more often than not films do not collect as much. When you spend Rs 90 crore on a movie and get back Rs 100 crore you don’t really call that a profit. Rather if you spend Rs 2 crore and get back Rs 4 core that is a 100 per cent return and accounts as a bigger hit!” explains Benegal.

For a filmmaker it is of utmost importance to maintain a balance between his artistic freedom and the financer’s profit. “It does not work out always as not all films can be successful. Hence the tension between the producers and the director will always be there. A person who puts in his money would never consider artistic freedom as license enough to make something that is not commercially viable!” he admits. “I have a lot of ideas which I would like to make into movies. But I realize that not all of them can be made. I keep working on scripts to figure out what can be done best. I too cannot make something that is not a part of my sensibility. I don’t try to please people at both ends of the scale because that way I would never be able to apply my own sensibility. Patience and hard work obviously pays!” he concludes.

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