Kashmir is back on the cinema map
This week has been hectic. From northern India to the south, news related to film industries has dominated discussions on TV news channels as well as social media. This is because there is positive news and there is also news that does not make sense.
The best news of the week is the return of cinema screens in Srinagar. The IMAX channel has revived the cinema business in Kashmir after a 30-year hiatus following the onset of militancy and terrorism in the late 1980s. The Kashmir Valley had up to nine cinema halls. It was the era of the single screen.
Jammu and Kashmir was part of the territory of East Punjab as it was known in the film trade (West Punjab having gone to Pakistan). The valley has been rightly described as heaven on earth where many films have been shot. In fact, it was a favorite location for filming romantic songs as well as the place where romances began. Furthermore, the contribution of Jammu and Kashmir to the talent pool of the film industry was commendable.
Three decades ago, when there was peace, like the rest of the country, Kashmiris also enjoyed the experience of watching movies. My work at the time consisted of transcribing the film collections which arrived by telegram and, later by fax, for a specialized journal for which I worked. There was nothing wrong, the Kashmiri liked or rejected a film like any other circuit. But things have changed. There were no Kashmir collection figures to compile.
When the insurrection started, the idea seemed to create panic and cinemas being public places were targeted. A bomb explosion in one of the cinemas ended the trade in the exhibit. Efforts to revive cinemas in the 1990s were unsuccessful.
Built by Vijay Dhar, the cinema will add to the IMAX channel and bring back the cinematic experience for the people of Srinagar and neighboring areas when it opens to the public on September 30 with Mani Ratnam’s ‘Vikram Vedha’ and ‘Ponniyin’ Selvan’ (PS)-1.
‘Chhello Show’: a clap of thunder
It was time for the nomination of an Indian entry in the Best International Film category at the Oscars. Usually India’s choice to send a film for the Oscar race is treated as a joke. Some or the other lobby is at work not only when it comes to Oscars or other international honors, but also for the so-called local popular film awards.
What is a popular price? A film that seduced the public and was a success at the box office. Two films were successful this year, one of them being “The Kashmir Files”. The film does not even find a mention in any category of nominations.
The films under discussion everywhere for India’s choice were two, ‘RRR’ and ‘The Kashmir Files’. Realistically, there were no other contenders when it came to mainstream and social media. There was no other film the Internet user could think of.
Still, there were 13 films vying for the honor – six in Hindi: ‘The Kashmir Files’, ‘Rocketry’, ‘Badhaai Ho’, ‘Jhund’, ‘Anek’ and ‘Brahmastra’; two in Telugu: “RRR” and “Sita Ramam”; and one in Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam, Dimasa (a dialect spoken in Assam) and Gujarati: “Iravin Nizhai”, “Aparajito”, “Ariyippu”, “Semkhor” and “Chhello Show”, respectively.
But a rank outsider, for the people at least, “Chhello Show” (Gujarati), was the choice of the selection committee. An outsider, because few had heard of this film, which was not publicized until it was chosen as India’s official selection for the Oscars. The film is said to be inspired by the 1988 Italian film, “Cinema Paradiso”, about a small-town boy in love with cinema.
“Cinema Paradiso” or not, I would say that the film identifies as much or more with the life course of director Pan Nalin. Coming from a small village named Adtala (population less than 2,000) near Amreli in Saurashtra, it was commendable that Nalin graduated from the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, an institution as renowned as any which IIM or IIT in his field. Cinema has always fascinated him.
Nalin worked and directed films in many links and made her reputation everywhere. ‘Chhello Show’ surprises moviegoers. It will be worth seeing if it creates a surprise at the Oscars. When the selection committee is neutral with no vested interests, a surprise can always be expected. Like the one that arose with the choice of “Hellaro”, a Gujarati film, for the 66th national award a few years ago.
Half-baked Ideas of Tamil Industry
This news comes from the South. It’s obvious. Since the Telugu film industry has established certain standards for members as well as stars and cinemas through the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce (TFCC), the Tamil Film Producers Council (TFPC) has decided to prove that it is the dormant organism.
If not, how does the TFPC plan to ask movie critics to refrain from writing/posting reviews of new movies until Sunday? ! Major media outlets, such as daily broadsheets, have always reviewed films from Sunday editions. The Sunday editions of the newspapers were intended for quiet reading with opinions, articles on various subjects as well as film reviews. Did it save a film from failure?
The business of film critics was to pass envelopes. Gradually, someone thought that giving stars to a movie made more business sense. Four and five stars carried a decent price tag.
There were critics who praised whether it was a film by Gulzar or Hrishikesh Mukherjee but denied films by Manmohan Desai and other commercial directors. A reviewer I knew praised Kamal Amrohi’s ‘Razia Sultan’, ending his review with something to the effect that the movie was worth every paisa you spent on the ticket. At the second show, Rs 5 tickets were being sold by black traders for 50 paise. It was a distress sale as there were no takers. I told the reviewer he was right!
A film released on a Friday is accepted or refused after the first screening. Critics and their critics have never mattered to the masses; they only helped massage the egos of movie stars and producers. What has always counted is word of mouth and today social media does this job.
High admission rates derail a film Finally, cinemas offered tickets at the flat rate of Rs 75 on Friday, September 23 and sold out everywhere (the offer was valid for seats other than those in the premium zones) .
I hope movie management has learned from their own experience that it’s often high admission rates that make a movie fail. In the current scenario, only stars and cinemas make money, the producer struggles and has to depend on other outlets such as OTT platforms and satellite rights, where again the price depends on the performance at the box office of a film!