The Canon

Duvidha (Mani Kaul, 1973) – A seminal piece of the Indian Parallel Cinema Movement

You would imagine that coming up with a Film Canon for Indian cinema becomes relatively easy when you eliminate altogether the major film industries that exist in the country. Of course everyone knows of Bollywood, but when you take a look at the others be it Tollywood, Kollywood, Mollywood, or any other painfully forced pun of America’s global film behemoth, they all function in similar fashion and produce cinema which (mostly) scrapes the bottom of the same barrel.  Alexis Tioseco said of his preference to focus solely on Filipino cinema and reject analysis of Hollywood filmmaking, “I feel no need to put myself in service of which doesn’t need it”. For a serious analysis of Indian cinema through a canon, I contend that we should “feel no need to put ourselves in service of that which doesn’t want it.” It is no secret that many of the commercial film directors who exist in the major or regional film industries do not seek nor do they approve of the discussion of their cinema through a critical or analytic eye. There is always a backlash of “we make films for the Indian masses only”, or “we make films for entertainment” and a further defense of the social dysfunction of Indian life which begs for an escape from reality: “the masses just want to go to see cinema to have fun and let loose”. Well, if we should hold these filmmakers to their word and their honor, then there is no point in wasting time/energy to hold their cinema to any semblance of a global standard. This makes our job easier in hacking out a film canon, because most of these filmmakers and their films aren’t worth discussing to begin with, and on a global platform, they would be essentially deemed as inconsequential to the film world.

That being said, I can’t for the life of me just ignore every filmmaker that has existed in Hindi cinema because there are those who’s cinema has shown to be deeply rooted in the history of film and its form, be it through cinematography, editing, or most importantly, a distinct directorial world-view. These filmmakers of course, mostly exist in the Golden Age of the 50’s and 60’s, or the Indian Parallel Cinema movement of the 70’s and 80’s and it is because of those times/movements that Bollywood even marked a chord with cinematic relevancy.  So, finally, here is a list of 15  film directors and some of their greatest films who I believe deserve the time and energy of the film critic community to be at least considered on the global platform as representative of Indian cinema:

Satyajit Ray – Pathar Panchali, Aparajito, Apur Sansar, The Music Room, Charulata, Mahanagar, Days and Nights in the Forest, The Chess Players, The Home and the World

Bimal Roy – Amol Gadhi, Do Bhiga Zameen, Biraj Bahu, Yahudi, Madhumati, Sujata, Bandini

Ritwik Ghatak – Meghe Dhaka Tara, Subharnarekha

Mani Kaul – Uski Roti, Duvidha, The Cloud Door

Mrinal Sen – Bhuvan Shome, Mrigayaa, Genesis, Ek Din Achanak

Guru Dutt  – Baazi, Mr. and Mrs. ’55, Pyaasa

Shyam Benegal – Ankur, Nishaant, Manthan, Bhumika, Junoon, Mandi, Sardari Begum

V. Shantaram – Manoos, Jhanak Jhanak Paayal Baaje, Do Aankhen Barah Haath, Pinjra

Govind Nihalaani – Aakrosh, Party, Ardh Satya, Tamas, Drishti, Drohkaal

Anand Patwardhan – Bombay: Our City, A Narmada Diary

Kumar Shahani – Maya DarpanKhayal Ghata, Kasba

Adoor Gopalakrishnan – Swayamvaram, The Rat Trap, Monologue, Mathilukal

Govindan Aravindan – The Bogeyman, Thampu, Esthappan

Aparna Sen – 36 Chowringhee Lane, Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, 15 Park Avenue

Gautam Ghose – Paar, Antarjali Jatra, Yatra, Moner Manush


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