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Mdeii Life - Anand Krishnamoorthi's blog

Monday, April 26, 2004

Project Report
My post-graduation project report is here (in a slightly abridged form, sans the trappings of academic submissions). So please read through A STUDY OF FILM CERTIFICATION SYSTEMS WITH SPECIFIC REFERENCE TO THE SYSTEM IN INDIA. Here is one part of which I would like to elaborate on.

Another issue that has to be discussed a little more is the audience�s behaviour and reaction to images and sounds in a theatrical presentation. Many social scientists put this kind of study in a class of queries that can never be sorted out. Therefore, what is usually done has a tendency to cater to the lowest common denominator in the audience. This is to say, that most decisions are based on the alleged reaction of the worst possible interpretation of screened visuals and sounds. This seems to be true of both filmmakers and certifiers; and both can be blamed for doing so. The researcher�s stand on this issue is this: it is extremely difficult to actually analyse what the aspirations and tastes are of this lowest common denominator audience. Therefore, it is most often the lowest common denominator of the creators�/certifiers� tastes and not of the audience�s that manifest in their decisions. This is because there is a tendency to think of the audience in terms of an ever receptive, predictable monolith. This understanding of the audience does not do justice to their intelligence and smacks of the same feudalistic patronising mentality discussed earlier. By simply raising the level of the creator�s discourse, one could find most of the audience being up to it. It is just that there seems to be a refusal to take that step from the side of the filmmakers, and there continues to be blame directed against the audience for dictating the poor tastes of the filmmakers.

I have written about raising the level of film discourse while discussing film certification. As I intend to be a filmmaker some day, I wish to elaborate on this point taking up the definition of democracy.
Both filmmakers and certifiers claim democratic credentials in their work when they say that most of the audience has a particular preference. If one were to accept at any point that either of them is in fact true, then it would appear that democracy seems to help perpetuate what one might consider an unfortunately poor taste in films. But this, to me, is only half of what democracy is all about. Democratic societies, apart from following the will of the masses, also are dynamic in terms of their public discourse. This aspect is often forgotten by almost anybody (from filmmakers to politicians) who talks about democracy when they say that they are only acting out the aspirations of the people. An active democracy, or a viable system of market economics, revolves around free public discourse.
Therefore, refusal to discuss certain issues, citing democracy (the will of the people) as an excuse, is oxymoronic. Being election time, I need to bring in politics here. Politicians too limit their discourse citing the same reasons. There is also the talk about India having a two-party system where opinions and discussions are (to be) polarised, simply for the sake of electoral convenience. In a plural democracy like ours, why limit public discourse to two? (Of course, I don�t think it is anyway possible to homogenise the Indian population.)
In my opinion, I think this is what ails American democracy. While there is ample reflection of public will in governmental policy there, there is very little in terms of variety in public discourse. Alternate thoughts are often pushed outside the so-called mainstream; and they get looked at as fringe-activities. Strangely, this could happen in Indian politics too.
Coming back to my field, films, it has already happened. There is a recognised �mainstream� and �parallel� cinema division; where the latter is often considered fringe material and not part of regular discourse. This is unhealthy and undemocratic.
In politics In the long term this leads to a stagnation, where democracy often turns into oligarchy, where a few always dictate terms, where the two apparently polar parties in fact become twiddledum and twiddledee, and where despite being a democracy, the state is run by corporates and big businesses.
In films, this is marked by the coming together of apparently competing big producers and big studios to belittle �independent� cinema. Ironically, while big-time films flop under their artificial assumptions, independent films have done well with the so-called mainstream audience. So this half-true theory sometimes fails to work in films. This is rare in Indian cinema, and that is because even our parallel filmmakers perpetuate their freaky fringe image by making arthouse rubbish.
That is why I feel that in keeping with the tenets of democracy, filmmakers have a duty to raise the level of discourse in �mainstream� films. I just feel it is unwise and ill informed to cite �people�s will� as an excuse for perpetuating the status quo.

9:38 pm



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