Monday, June, 24,2024


The party has just begun.
The night is still young. Indian Cinema was BIG and at the global podium… be it Venice, Berlin or Cannes… Indian Cinema was always credited for its make. However, with the success at the Oscar 2023, fully home-grown Indian Cinema has finally triumphed against all “odds”! Since the Fifties, Indian Cinema has created a ripple in the celluloid world. Today, we take a look at the baby steps that Indian cinema in general took post-Independence, unknowingly that collectively India would create a niche (albeit small) in the arena of world cinema. We have several times asked ourselves why was the great dream merchant icon Raj Kapoor so popular in Russia? The answer is perhaps the optimism of the charismatic actor that inspired Russians to brave through their troubled times. In the early fifties, just after the devastating war with Germany, the country was still in ruins and people were poor and their lives were full of privations and shortages. But when they saw greater hardships being faced by the poor from India and too with a smile, it boosted their sagging optimism. So, after watching Awara and Shri 420, Raj Kapoor became a symbol of hope and optimism for the people of Soviet Union. Also, the common man shares perhaps the same spiritual values as perhaps all Indian movies gives the message of ‘victory of good over evil’. This is perhaps the yearning of every downtrodden soul in the world and it is so eternally bonded. Believe it or not, in the late Eighties this anecdote reveals exactly how big B Subhash’s Disco Dancer was in Russia. When the then USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited New Delhi, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi introduced Amitabh Bachchan as the ‘biggest superstar from India’, but Gorbachev apparently said, “But my daughter only knows Mithun Chakraborty.” After Disco Dancer’s release in Soviet Union theatres in 1984, Disco Dancer grossed a whopping $76 million in that country. For the record, that is $100 million more than what Padmaavat grossed worldwide. Mithun Chakraborty -starrer Disco Dancer was the highest grossing foreign film in the Soviet Union!

BUT THESE WERE IN BITS AND PIECES… Pather Panchali was released in Basusree, a Calcutta cinema on August 26, 1955 and received a poor initial response. The screenings started filling up within a week or two, buoyed by word of mouth. It opened again at another cinema, where it ran for seven weeks. A delay in subtitling led to postponement of the UK release till Dec 1957. It went on to achieve great success in the US in 1958, running for eight months at Fifth Avenue Playhouse in New York.WB govt which produced the film earned a profit of $50,000 from its initial US release, and decades later the film grossed $402,723 from its 2015 limited release. Lagan, on its part, made it to a close call at cinema’s biggest stage in the world, but missed chance to make the cut. Even as the maestro Ray received the Lifetime Achievement from Oscar, home-gown Indian cinema (as I termed it earlier in this column) had to wait in general for some more time before Naatu Naatu & “Trunk Call” of The Elephant Whisperers made it big at Academy Awards. This year’s unprecedented night at the Academy Awards is a manifestation of years of cerebral and emotive filmmaking without the expectation of any recognition from the West. In recent times, thanks to technology and money power, India has taken major strides in globally communicating through its popular medium of cinema and Films like Kantara (Telugu), RRR (Telugu), Pariyerum Perumal (Tamil), Sairat (Marathi) Mandela (Tamil), and Asuran (Tamil) & The Elephant Whisperers have been enough proof of this trend which has finally arrived. It is not that Indian cinema has not received recognition in the past from the Academy. But the recent bumper successes signify the Indian timetested interests in equality, fraternity, human liberty and justice. These films and recognition will take Indian cinema to the global stage where these pieces of art actually belong. After years of sustainable efforts, despite being shunned several times, people have sat up and noticed our mettle.

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