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The Uniqueness of Indian Cinema – Element 1 of 4

The Uniqueness of Indian Cinema – Element 1 of 4

“There is a single more condition in this region, and that is Hindi cinema. And Hindi cinema also has its have society… rather different from Indian tradition but it is not alien to us, we comprehend it.”

Javed Akhtar in ‘Talking Films’

Indian filmmakers depart from their Hollywood counterparts in distinct methods. While Hollywood filmmakers attempt to conceal the made nature of their get the job done so that the reasonable narrative is wholly dominant, Indian filmmakers make no try to conceal the truth that what is proven on screen is a spectacle, an illusion, a fiction.

A selection of aspects devote Indian well-known cinema with a crystal clear identity but they can rarely be deemed reliable visuals of Indian culture or truth. Even so, they do replicate Indian culture, found as it were being, as a result of a distorted or damaged mirror. Amongst the distinct characteristics are the subsequent:

-Indian well known films are, in most situations, not realistic and not rooted in any certain tradition inside India as they aspire to attain out to all-India audiences. In point, generally a excellent hard work is manufactured to make absolutely sure that it simply cannot be discovered with any particular area of India.

-Performing is exaggerated as it is derived from the traditional Indian folks varieties.

-Melodrama has an abiding existence in conditions of plot, character and use of background audio.

-The use of the camera is usually flashy, drawing notice to by itself. The editing much too is obtrusive which often stand in contrast to Western principles of continuity.

-People are seldom unique men and women they are generally social stereotypes or archetypes.

-Tracks and dances are critical parts of a film’s appeal. They intervene into the narrative move, normally without the need of much justification. So, films are not often ‘organic’ in the Western sense but neither is there a lot have to have to make it so. This might be the rationale why Western audiences resist this type of cinema, i.e. for its lack of organicity.

-Movies seldom slide into genres as it is understood in scenario of American cinema. Rather, each and every movie is commonly a mixture of various genres. Hence the strategy of the masala combine or the thali food.

Indian well-known films hardly ever fake to be wholly sensible. They are governed by conventions commonly shared concerning filmmakers and audiences. These conventions have developed traditionally and have reached a evaluate of balance. Indian well-liked films can’t be judged by the reasonable yardstick utilized to Western films.

It is an open key that Indian cinema’s best weak point is the screenplay.The craft of writing has hardly ever been taken very seriously in the Indian well known cinema and this displays in the simple fact that scriptwriters are typically poorly paid, if at all. That also explains the vicious circle why really serious writers do not want to undertaking into screenwriting. All this stands in direct contrast to the way movies are created in Europe or The usa where the screenplay is the bedrock of film funding and screenplay progress is a substantial marketplace. Hollywood, in specific, invests substantial amounts of dollars in developing screenplays, only a smaller fraction of which basically discover their way to manufacturing. In India, advancement funding for movies is uncommon or non-existent.

“It is a lot extra difficult to produce a screenplay for Naseeb than for a Western or ‘art’ movie, wherever you have a straight storyline. A industrial Hindi film has to have sub-plots and gags, and retain its audience associated with no tale or logic.”

(K.K. Shukla, scriptwriter of Naseeb)

The assertion that Hindi films have ‘no story’ is sometimes complicated to people unfamiliar with the genre. “Who cares who will get the story credits. Everyone appreciates our movies have no tales”, and, in truth, the story credits are generally given to mates or kinfolk for tax adjustment needs. What is intended by ‘no story’ is that the storyline will be virtually absolutely predictable to the Indian audience, being a repetition, or alternatively, an unmistakable remodeling of many other Hindi movies, and also that it will be recognised by them as a ‘ridiculous’ pretext for spectacle and emotion. Films which really have ‘no story’ i.e. non-narrative, or are ‘just spice of life’, or have the comparatively solitary-stranded narratives of numerous contemporary European films, are regarded as not likely to be profitable.

“The difference involving Hindi and Western films is like that among an epic and a shorter tale.”

Javed Akhtar

There is of class excellent proof that Hindi films have progressed from village traditions of epic narration, and the dramas and the figures, as properly as the construction, of the mythological epics are consistently and overtly drawn upon. Movie-makers frequently insist that: ‘Every movie can be traced back again to these tales ‘, and even that ‘There are only two stories in the world, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.’ In simple fact, it is the sort and motion of the narrative that tends to distinguish the Hindi films, the crux of this currently being that the harmony concerning narrative development and spectacular or emotional excessive is fairly diverse.

The narrative of the Indian common cinema is frequently developed upon a uncomplicated opposition amongst fantastic/morality and evil/decadence, and connotations of ‘traditional’ and ‘Indian’ are appended to morality, which is an excellent of social relations which features respect for kinship and friendship obligations, future, patriotism and faith (and spiritual tolerance) as properly as restrained sexuality. Evil or decadence is broadly categorized as ‘non-traditional’ and ‘Western’, even though the West is not so considerably a area, or even a tradition, as an emblem of unique, decadent otherness.

Filmmakers are very informed of building their narratives all around phrases of an opposition so fundamental that audiences are unable to very easily stay clear of immersion:

“Kinship emotion in India is extremely robust – so this element often works – that is what ‘lost and found’ is about. It does not function so very well with educated audiences who go numerous days without looking at their families, but it will work with B and C grade audiences who get worried if they do not see a spouse and children member by 6.30 P.M., whose family members users are an essential portion of them selves and their encounter of the planet “

(K.K. Shukla, screenplaywriter)


When we study the evolution of preferred Indian cinema, there are particular forces that merit nearer analysis. These are:

1. The two Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata
2. Classical Indian theatre
3. The folk theatre
4. The Parsi theatre
5. Hollywood
6. Television

Allow us look at every of them in a minor far more depth so as to gain a clearer comprehension:


It is unarguably crystal clear that the Hindi film, no matter what check out 1 may well maintain of its basic quality, is deeply embedded in particular mythic constructions which have outlined the contours of Indian civilization. Manmohan Desai claimed that all his movies were being impressed by the Mahabharata, and on celebration every thing in the Hindi film, from the archetypal figure of the mother to the anti-heroic hero, look to spring from the epics. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata have performed a vital job in shaping the considered, imagination, and existence-styles of the broad mass of Indian persons.

The two epics have typically supplied Indian movie producers with themes and plots. The extremely 1st Indian “talkie”, Raja Harishchandra, was primarily based on the Ramayana, and because then scores of films have drawn on the epics for plots. In addition, certain thematizations associated to motherhood, patrimony and revenge, for occasion in Mom India, Awaara, and Zanjeer respectively, that regularly discover articulation in Indian cinema can be instantly traced to the affect of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

In get to realize the uniqueness of the Indian movie discourse, we need to understand the composition of narrativity in well known Indian cinema. Though Indian cinema has been greatly motivated by Hollywood, the artwork of narration with its unlimited digressions, circularities, and plots within plots remained distinctly Indian. Below all over again, the impact of the two epics is unmistakable.


Sanskrit theatre constitutes one particular of the richest and most advanced legacies of classical lndian tradition. The Natya Shastra, the classical treatise on Indian dramaturgy, defines drama as a “mimicry of the exploits of the gods, the Asuras (demons), kings as very well as the householder in this globe.” According to yet another vital treatise, the Dasharupa, drama is the imitation of situations. As a result, the thought of mimicry or imitation is fundamental to the concept of Sanskrit drama.

The Sanskrit theatre was highly stylized it really is manner of presentation was episodic laying the utmost emphasis on spectacle. In it, audio and dance coalesced magnificently to develop a wholly satisfying creative unity. Sanskrit theatre was guided by robust injunctions related to the collection of plots, heroes and heroines, use of language, and the construction of the narrative. Poetry constituted a very critical aspect in Sanskrit drama. In truth, from the incredibly earliest instances, drama was thought of a branch of poetry. Poetry served to offer you moral opinions, intensify emotion, and conjure up vividly in the minds of the viewers, the track record of the action of the drama. Mime and dance type an integral portion of the classical Indian theatrical working experience. The Sanskrit word natya, indicating “drama” is derived from the root nritto, dance.

We can determine a number of options of classical Indian drama which have an attention-grabbing bearing on the structure of well-known Indian cinema. Sanskrit performs were being amazing dance-dramas in distinction to the tightly structured plays of the West. They had been non-naturalistic and stylized and demanded the imaginative response from the viewers. As a lot of the pressure and vigour of the Sanskrit theatre was derived from common and standard vocabulary of theatrical expression, the more one was acquainted with the tradition, the much better geared up 1 was to take part in the knowledge. Sanskrit dramas ended up heroic passionate-tragic comedies with a strong lyrical flavour. The final goal of the classical Indian dramatist was the creation of a dominant aesthetic emotion (rasa) in the spectators.

While popular cinema has a additional immediate hyperlink with people theatre relatively than classical theatre, the Sanskrit theatre’s significance continues to be crucial as it is the resource of the people theatre forms.

iii)People THEATRE:
Owing to a number of will cause, Sanskrit drama commenced to decline after the tenth century. Concurrently, many spectacular kinds sprang up or matured in the various provinces which, preserved and embodied the essence of the classical tradition. The Yatra of Bengal, Ram Lila and Krishna Lila of Uttar Pradesh, Tamasha of Maharashtra, Nautanki of Rajasthan, Bhavai of Gujarat, Bhagavata Mela of Tanjore, Terukkuttu of Tamilnadu, Vithinatakam of Andhra and Yakshagana of Karnataka are the most popular amid them. These different regional dramas, which are primarily creations of untutored people-artists, have just one central characteristic in popular, namely that in different levels of competence and trustworthiness they embody in a dwelling form, the distinguishing features of the classical Sanskrit theatre.

When, just after the tenth century, the classical Sanskrit language splintered into vernaculars and took root in the kind of regional languages, the Sanskrit drama — petrified for quite a few hundreds of years — was replaced by the escalating people theatre. In this way, the tradition flowed not from the people to the classical, but from the classical to the folks. The folks-theatre inherits quite a few of the classical conventions. This is, of study course, not to advise that all folks- dramas of India have been derived from the classical custom. Nevertheless, what is vital to observe is that in all those rural dramas which have survived up to the current day, the impact of the classical tradition is plainly perceptible. In the use of humour, tunes and dance, the framework of the narratives, the informing melodramatic creativeness, the folks-theatre of India has no question exercised a profound influence on the makers of well-known cinema.

iv)PARSI THEATRE:The Parsi theatre is the most critical cultural antecedent of the Indian well-liked cinema as substantially as the vaudeville was a cultural forerunner to the early American cinema. The Parsi theatre, which arrived into existence in the nineteenth century is a important backlink between India’s standard narratives, performative traditions and its incorporation within the structure of the technologically-pushed medium of the cinema.

There had been a number of Parsi theatrical corporations touring the country and accomplishing right before crowded audiences.. These dramatists experienced a simple cast of mind and were a lot more intrigued in industrial accomplishment than artistic accomplishment. The Parsi theatre excelled in both equally social and historical performs. Stylistically, they exhibited a curious amalgam of realism and fantasy, music and dance, narrative and spectacle, energetic dialogues and stage ingenuity, all welded inside the framework of melodrama. These plays with their melodious songs, crude humour, sensationalism, stunning phase craft were created to attraction to the wide mass of people, and they did. The Parsi theatre which drew on equally western and Indian modalities of enjoyment represented an attempt to enchantment to the lowest popular denominator. Thus, we observe that these plays bear an uncanny resemblance to the generality of popular Indian movies. If the folks-dramas had been based mostly on rural regions and presented the vocabulary of customarily inherited theatrical expression, the Parsi performs signified an urban theatre uncovered to western variations and sensibilities.

Most importantly, the Parsi theatre released the idea of the proscenium theatre in India where classic theatre performances had been held with a central phase and audiences were seated all close to it. Even the actors would enter into the phase through the viewers. Parsi theatre (or Company Nataka, as it was identified in Japanese India for its association with the East India Firm), although incorporating the themes and tales of traditional Indian theatre, started using the Western thought of the stage with actors frontally addressing the audiences from a stage which was shut on all 3 sides, ushering us into the now-widespread format of the theatre phase. This paved the way for the digicam to history the scenes from the place of the watch of the audience in the entrance row. With a central phase and audiences on all sides, the digital camera – which was so hefty in those times that it had to be stationary – could not have captured the performance on-phase. Consequently, the Parsi theatre helped make the changeover from standard Indian theatre to cinema, not only in phrases of thematics but also in official phrases.

“The American cinema’s seemingly normal subjection of model to narrative in point depended on a historical incident: the movies’ origins lay in late nineteenth century whose predominant popular arts were the novel and the theatre. Had cinema appeared in the Enlightenment or the Passionate period, it may well have assumed the shape of the essay or lyric poem. As an alternative, it adopted the standard tactic and intention of the sensible novel. Aware ‘style’ would be effaced both of those to set up the cinema’s illusion of reality and to motivate viewers identification with the figures on the screen.”

(Satyajit Ray)

Indian film producers have been also tremendously fascinated by, and attracted to, Hollywood musicals in that they similar in some appealing approaches to the defining attributes of regular Indian theatre and general performance. The heyday of Hollywood musicals stretched from the 1930s to the 1950s, and numerous of the musicals produced during these two many years had as their plot the entire world of amusement alone. The narratives of these movies had been, by and big, conventional, when the tracks and spectacle offered the possibility each to the people in the drama and the viewers to indulge in flights of fantasy. It was by the operating out of the plot that the clear disparity amongst narrative and spectacle was reconciled. This, even so, is not a characteristic generally observed in Indian movies.

The Indian business cinema, although drawing closely from Hollywood musicals, adopted a different tack in that the plot was not utilized in the assistance of healing the narrative/spectacle split. Alternatively song and dance sequences were being and are utilized as all-natural expressions of day-to-day feelings and conditions. The Hollywood musical sought to keep the facade of truth with a perspective to legitimatise the spectacle. They not only displayed singing and dancing, but have been, in reality, about singing and dancing. The Indian filmmakers, on the other hand, even though in search of to intensify the aspect of fantasy via new music and spectacle, also reinforced the impression that music and dances are the organic and sensible expression of emotion in the given condition in the filmic efficiency. Audio contributes a essential ingredient in the cultural building of emotion. In this way, we see both of those similarities and dissimilarities among Hollywood musicals and Indian mainline movies.

The two essential components of the “invisible” design are mise-èn-scène and continuity editing. It usually means that system really should be applied in these types of a way that it will not be discovered, making itself ‘invisible’ in that feeling. The ‘invisible’ design led to the principle of “centering”. Digital camera angles, lighting, focus, framing, costumes, established styles, all labored unitedly to retain the major object of the narrative at the center of the body. The discontinuity effected by editing, on the other hand, were being hid by methods aimed to hold intact spatial and temporal continuity from shot to shot. Continuing motion, connecting seems to be, widespread sounds, matching successive pictures by visible similarities, the 180 degree technique, etcetera ensured the continuity of modifying. Indian filmmakers, with their inordinate really like for remarkable digital camera movements, extravagant use of colour, flashy enhancing and self-mindful use of sound depart at times from the “invisible” style of Hollywood. In the case of Hollywood filmmakers, the narrative closure, unobtrusive and non-reflexive camera, continuity of impression, voyeuristic objectification, shot centering, frame equilibrium, sequential enhancing sought to build in the minds of the spectator the impression that what is becoming exhibited on the display screen is an goal reporting of true activities instead than a contrived and wilfully created sequence of situations. In this regard, it is pertinent to remind ourselves of the idea of verisimilitude (an Aristotelian expression, referring to the resemblance to life that a function of artwork statements) to the impact that it really should not be equated with fact but interpreted as what a tradition takes for truth. That’s why, actuality can plausibly be argued as a cultural construct.

In current yrs, Hollywood has turn out to be the key looking ground for plots, tales and people for movies to these types of an extent that a significant variety of films are Hindi remakes of Hollywood successes. This phenoemon, enabled by shot-by-shot remake by way of very easily readily available DVDs, has deepened the affect of Hollywood. Importantly, European or Latin American successes are not often, if at any time, replicated by ‘Bollywood’ films.


The cultural and visible effects of tv on filmmaking was felt somewhere in the 1980s, precisely with the acceptance of the MTV-style modifying (speedy cuts). It is apparent in Indian well known cinema in the 1980s and 1990s.

The pace of the movies, the rapid cutting, dance sequences, digital camera angles that a single associates with fashionable musical television come across clear analogies in modern day Indian films. Just one has to analyze the operate of a filmmaker these kinds of as Mani Ratnam to recognise this. As modern Indian audiences are more and additional exposed to new music television programmes and these ground breaking methods of presentation, their sensibilities are naturally commencing to be formed by them. Normally, present-day Indian filmmakers, in get to retain their mass appeal, are drawing significantly on the techniques of MTV. This is barely astonishing due to the fact films are wherever artwork and technological innovation fulfill. It is the soundtrack which can help to build the ‘image’ of a movie and, although the romance concerning filmmakers and engineering has not often been uncomplicated, new systems – e.g. electronic pictures and virtual truth – are successful.

What we see, then, is the emergence of a unique genre of film-creating in India as a outcome of the confluence of the various forces that we have reviewed previously mentioned. This style which sought to blend actuality and fantasy, narrative and spectacle, music and dance, tradition and modernity was at once deeply rooted in the cultural lifetime and psyche of the people today and accommodative of new and international influences. This genre, which was mainly melodramatic in design, enabled the vast mass of Indian people to appear to terms with social modernization while retaining their Indianness.