Indian CInema, Parallel Cinema, Uncategorized
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Canonizing Indian Parallel Cinema – Part 2: The Emergency (1975 – 1977)

This is part two in a series of five posts on canonizing Indian Parallel Cinema. Part one was published in January 2017.

The Emergency, an extended period of state repression and censorship, is one of the darkest times in India’s recent history. The foundational years of Parallel Cinema, where some thought it was possible to create an alternate non-commercial cinema, ended chaotically in 1975 when Indira Gandhi, foreseeing her dwindling grip on power, replaced information and broadcasting minister Inder Kumar Gujral overnight with V. C. Shukla. This was because Doordarshan had not given live coverage to an Indira Gandhi rally (Hashmi, 2013). Shukla’s dictatorial reign as minister of information and broadcasting was marked by notoriety, bullying film stars and coercing directors in a period of intense repression. (See Decline and Fall of Indira Gandhi, D.R. Manekar, 2014). No films were financed by the FFC in this period, indicative of the severity of state repression, albeit new and important voices still emerged including John Abraham and Anand Patwardhan.

When ‘In September 1975 V.C. Shukla informed Karanjia that the Board of the FFC would be reconstituted and a new policy framed’ (Vasudev, 1986: 158), it was based on the findings of the Committee on Public Undertakings (1975-1976). Shukla had falsely skewed the facts about the loans, which had been given out by the FFC, thus implicating Karanjia publicly. After a meeting with Indira Gandhi in an attempt to resolve the differences with Shukla, Karanjia and many of his colleagues would later resign in protest, bringing to an end the first wave of Parallel Cinema. In 1987 Karanjia would return to the FFC (later the NFDC), taking up the post of Chairman for a second time. In many ways Karanjia was the perfect candidate for the job, having been editor of Filmfare, he was perfectly placed to navigate between commercial and non-commercial cinema. Also, if one looks at the first phase, Karanjia’s reign was impressive to say the least.

In many ways, Indira Gandhi’s declaration of the Emergency has been interpreted as a last ditch attempt to hold onto the hegemonic idea of a developmental state but historian and cultural commentator Vivek Chibber poses the question: ‘Why did Indian political leaders and bureaucrats fail to build the institutions adequate to the task?’ (Chibber, 2003: 7). If film organisations and funding bodies established by the state, namely the FFC, the FTII, and the International Film Festival of India are institutions we can include in this paradigm then this is certainly a charge that can brought against the economic and industrial inadequacies of the state, which by 1975 had been repeatedly undermined by the capital class of the Indian film industry. As Chibber states: ‘The evidence for Indian capital’s resistance to state regulation and discipline, which is at the heart of any industrial policy, is overwhelming’ (Chibber, 2003: 224). Naturally, the issue of industry status, raised as early as 1955, that would take decades before it came to fruition, can be accounted for in terms of the deeper antagonistic cultural and patronage contest that had become entrenched in the national psyche by the late 1960s. In fact, Veena Nargal claims ‘the Bombay industry responded to the FFC program with an increasingly standardized “hold-all” entertainment formula’ (Nargal, 2004: 522), popularly known as the Masala film, which was ultimately able to communicate with a broad Indian audience.

Perhaps the most audacious moment of this second phase was the boldly experimental, collaborative work Ghashiram Kotwal (dir. K. Hariharan, Mani Kaul, Kamap Swaroop, Saeed Mirza, 1976), a film about the Emergency which saw the daring marriage of blackboard political cinema and the austere avant-garde sensibilities first nurtured in the foundational years by the cinema of Kaul and Shahani. This phase also produced perhaps Benegal’s finest work, Manthan (1976)yet another film cooperative venture in the vein of Ghashiram (Yukt) and Abraham’s dazzling Agraharathil Kazhuthai (1977, Odessa). Significant in this phase is that many of the films and the best ones came from beyond the Hindi centre, regional cinema particularly in the form of Malayalam, much of it starkly political, continued to wield an iconoclastic agenda that took on many prevailing social maladies such as feudalism and broadening the intellectual and aesthetic scope of Parallel Cinema.

 Second Phase: The Emergency (75 – 77)

47. Aandhi, dir. Gulzar, 1975, Hindi
48. Kabani Nadi Chuvannapool/When the Kabani River Turned Red, dir. P.A. Backer, 1975, Malayalam
49. Chhotisi Baat/Little Affair, dir. Basu Chatterjee, 1975, Hindi
50. Chomana Dudi/Choma’s Drum, dir. B.V. Karanth, 1975, Kannada
51. Ganga Chiloner Pankhi, dir. Padum Barua, 1975, Assamese
52. Hamsa Geethe/The Swan Song, dir. G.V. Iyer, 1975, Kannada
53. Jana Aranya/The Middleman, dir. Satyajit Ray, 1975, Bengali
54. Nishant/Night’s End, dir. Shyam Benegal, 1975, Hindi
55. Avasesh, dir. Girish Kasaravalli, 1975, Kannada
56. Samna/Confrontation, dir. Jabbar Patel, 1975, Marathi
57. Waves of Revolution, dir. Anand Patwardhan, 1975, English
58. Bhumika/The Role, dir. Shyam Benegal, 1976, Hindi
59. Ghashiram Kotwal, dir. K. Hariharan, Mani Kaul, Kamap Swaroop, Saeed Mirza, 1976, Marathi
60. Hungry Autumn, dir. Gautam Ghose, 1976, English
61. Manthan/The Churning, dir. Shyam Benegal, 1976, Hindi
62. Mrigaya/The Royal Hunt, dir. Mrinal Sen, 1976, Hindi
63. Pallavi, dir. P. Lankesh, 1976, Kannada
64. Chitrakathi, dir. Mani Kaul, 1976, Hindi
65. Bonga, dir. Kundan Shah, 1976, Hindi
66. Agraharathil Kazhuthai/Donkey in a Brahmin Village, dir. John Abraham, 1977, Tamil
67. Ghattashraddha/The Ritual, dir. Girish Kasaravalli, 1977, Kannada
68. Kanchana Seeta/Golden Seeta, dir. G. Aravindan, 1977, Malayalam
69. Manimuzhakkam/Tolling of the Bell, dir. P.A. Backer, 1977, Malayalam
70. Kodiyettam/The Ascent, dir. Adoor Gopalakrishnan, 1977, Malayalam
71. Kondura/The Boom, dir. Shyam Benegal, 1977, Hindi/Telegu
72. Oka Oorie Katha/The Outsiders, dir. Mrinal Sen, 1977, Telugu
73. Shatranj Ke Khiladi/The Chess Players, dir. Satyajit Ray, 1977, Urdu
74. Swami, dir. Basu Chatterjee, 1977, Hindi
75. Alaap, dir. Hrishkesh Mukherjee, 1977, Hindi
76. Jait Re Jait, dir. Jabbar Patel, 1977, Marathi
77. Chaani, dir. V. Shantaram, 1977, Marathi
78. Khatta Meetha, dir. Basu Chatterjee, 1977, Hindi

Bibliography

Chibber, V. (2003), Locked in place: state building and capitalist industrialization in India: 1940 – 1970, Woodstock: Princeton University Press

Mankekar, D. R., (2014), Decline and fall of Indira Gandhi, New Delhi: Vision Books

Vasudev, A. (1986) The New Indian Cinema, New Delhi: Macmillan India

Nargal, V. ‘Bollywood and Indian Cinema: Changing Contexts and Articulations of National Cultural Desire’ in Downing, D. H., (ed.) (2004) The Sage Handbook of Media Studies, London; Sage

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