Harper's Bazaar March 2016 - Page 190

HOT LIST Bazaar I ndie cinema has been a buzzword for a few years now, but 2015 was when it thrived. Neeraj Ghaywan’s debut film Masaan bagged two awards at the Cannes Film Festival; Avinash Arun’s Marathi film Killa won a trophy at the Berlin Film Festival; and Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court won an award at the Venice film festival and became India’s submission for the Oscars. It seems as if there’s a waft of freshness for desi cinema buffs, a flavour they’re not used to, and an excitement they haven’t had for years. Somewhere within the flood of mainstream films of the Khans and the Kapoors, the rise of modern indie films have emerged as a big little revolution. But is it, really? The truth is the very definition of ‘indie’ is unclear. The term originated from the underbelly of Hollywood, and an ‘indie film’ was basically one that was made outside the walls of a big studio. For example, 1999’s The BlairWitch Project was made by a bunch of people who used their own camera and funded the production themselves. The film was then sent to a film festival where it was picked up by a distributor, and it MOVIES ended up becoming the greatest financial success of all time, picking up boxofficerevenues200timesitsbudget. Now, the gap between an indie film and a studio film has decreased. Salon magazine recently called the indie film industry the next Walmart of America, where cheap labour and subsidies have created an unsustainable bubble. The same parameters apply to Bollywood. Film critic Mihir Fadnavis on why it’s too First, a quick flashback: During the ’80s, soon to celebrate the new silver screen an era universally regarded as the worst darling—the indie film time in Bollywood (just look at the costumes), there was a sliver of parallel cinemafromthelikesofShyamBenegal. However, the commercial flicks of the ’90s all but obliterated the genre until the 2000s, when filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap and Sudhir Mishra decided to shake things up with Dev D and Hazaaron Khwaaishein Aisi. Vikram Motwane’s Udaan (2010) took India to the international film festival circuit, and the word ‘indie’ began being circulated in the press and pop culture. Cut to 2016, and it’s easy to see why indie is actually a misnomer for the offbeat. The hard truth is that the indie bubble has been cannibalising itself. Even if a filmmaker decides to make an indie Hindi movie, it is funneled through a studio for production, distribution, and marketing. Ghaywan’s Masaan was actually a coproduction between four studios including Kashyap’s Phantom Films and France’s Pathé. Kanu Behl’s Titli was made through the biggest commercial name in India,Yash Raj Films. And while most of these indie filmmakers are indie spirited, to make a breakthrough without a studio, without a big name attached, is impossible. “I don’t think we have any indie scene in Hindi film industry,” says Varun Grover, the writer of Masaan. “Our vague definition of ‘indie’ is a film without big stars. Somebody even called Piku an indie probably (From top) Richa Chadha in a still from Masaan (2015); Neeraj Ghaywan, director of Masaan; the slacker comedy Sulemaani Keeda, which released in December 2014. 190 MASAAN: IMAGES COURTESY KETAN MEHTA THE REEL DEAL