In a 1948 article entitled, “What is Wrong with Indian Films,” Ray criticized India’s movement away from art and towards either musicals or heavy mysticism:
“The raw material of the cinema is life itself. It is incredible that a country which has inspired so much painting and music and poetry should fail to move the movie maker. He has only to keep his eyes open, and his ears. Let him do so.”
After thousands of years of cultural ecstasy any individual will tend to believe that cinema, rather Indian cinema would reflect something of a corresponding breadth and depth. Unfortunately, in India, quite the contrary is true, especially after the explosion of trade affairs associated with the art of film making and a development of entertainment industry known as “Bollywood”. It is quite evident that the low tastes of people are governed by the media and their perspectives in terms of box-office collections. However, is this really a reflective excuse to go completely brain-dead? It’s like a plague of spiritual dullness that is inculcated in our minds. And the effort was quite deliberate to keep the common man under control.
Even after 64 years of that article of which the extract mentioned above is a part; Indian cinema is still an amateur form of art that never gets proper recognition and decree in terms of international standards. What is still wrong with Indian cinema? It is so sad to re-visit Ray’s ideas and still mention that Indian movies are on the same creative line and the development was merely technological curbing the quality of intellect in Indian movies. Barring a few personal efforts the entire scenario of film making is still dependent on baseless stories and dance sequences with 50 odd people dressed up in the same attire, dancing with the same steps. FCUK.. How pathetic!
However, the great Japanese author Akira Kurosowa once remarked, “Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon.”
Even though Ray’s film was shot in B&W and in circumstances that were as impoverished as the world being portrayed in the film, the poetic concurrence of man to nature has hardly ever been done in a better way. There is actually very little plot to speak of, reminding one more of the improvised naturalness of De Sica’s Bicycle Thief than anything that had come before in Indian Cinema. The image and the sound are the real protagonists in this work of art. Once seen, who can ever forget those insects skitting along the surface of a pond, while the thrillingly precise accompaniment provided by the legendary Ravi Shankar finds just the right pulse of nature! Or Apu and Durga’s walk through a field of tall, white, willowy reeds as they discover a train outside their village. Or Durga’s ritual dance during the first monsoon rain. Or the terrifying night as the storm rips apart Durga’s room as she lies dying. Or the long-absent father’s approach to the crumbling house, the fallen Mango tree branch and the lone chewing cow. Each one of these images has infinitely more weight than the infinite factory of images supplied by Bollywood and most other cinemas of the country.
In addition, upon seeing DeSica’s The Bicycle Thief, Ray wrote in a 1951 essay, “The present blind worship of technique emphasizes the poverty of genuine inspiration among our directors,” Ray continued. “For a popular medium, the best kind of inspiration should derive from life and have its roots in it. No amount of technical polish can make up for artificiality of theme and dishonesty of treatment. The filmmaker must turn to life, to reality.” Mr. Ray also had the eye of a cinema poet and discovered an abundance of poetry in the reality of his mise-en-scene. Poetic justice was manifested with accurate camera angles and some pitch perfect vision. As if he could see the scenes he described on the script and could foresee them as a piece of art when they will reflect on a screen.
This article is not to assert the black sides of business quotients of the industry or to hamper the need of trade and economy but to lend a vision to all the upcoming film makers of this country. This is the time to make a mark and bring a change to the outlook of this profession. It is truly one of the most creative professions of the world and requires the creative efforts of many. So, why should we compromise the quality of the content of this form of art? Throughout the millennium, man has tried to enforce a standard of living that imitates a class just above their class. This has resulted in the death of real art and given senseless films a chance to make a mark on the box office and survive as a form of popular entertainment.
With due respect to all the film makers who sought inspiration from lives and made real life movies that depicted stories which connect to human emotions and expressions, Ray was perhaps the pioneer of cinema’s that had a vision.
A humble request to all who read this article: If you connect to my thoughts, propagate! Issued in public interest who love the art of film making or Cinema as a whole!
Looking back: “Development of authentic motion-picture criticism in India!”