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Documentary vs Cinema

Documentary vs CinemaAs Indian cinema has completed its 100 years this year and is proud to deliver a number of blockbusters ( Chupke Chupke, Dil To Pagal Hai, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai) , evergreen movies like Sholay, Kabhi Kabhi, Mughal-e-Azam, Umrao Jaan and many unbeatable extraordinary actors like Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan , Madhuri Dixit, Rekha , Asha Parekh , Rajesh Khanna , Dilip Kumar, Sunil Dutt , Rishi Kapoor etc. The list is almost endless. With these 100 golden years of cinema, acting, drama, action, emotions; we have almost forgotten the documentaries which led the beginning of cinema.

When Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of Indian Cinema, released his epochal feature film Raja Harishchandra on May 3 1913, it is unlikely that either the exhibitors or the pioneer film maker realized they were unleashing a mass entertainment medium that would hold millions in sway for the next hundred years. The French might have introduced the concept of moving images, but little did anyone know that India would one day become the largest film industry in the world.

Indian cinema has an identity that is very unique and unmatched. We have moved from the black and white silent films to 3D, but our cinema continues to retain its basic essence - to thrill.

Anurag Kashyap: “They’ve said all sorts of awful things about my film like, What is wrong with Anurag, why is he making such a light film, this film has no substance. They said it wasn’t serious enough, that they did not expect something like this from ME! But you know, I don’t give a damn. I made the film I wanted to make and I had a wonderful time doing it. In fact I went back and saw my film again to see what was wrong with it and I found nothing wrong with it. I really wanted to go out there and have fun with this film and I did. So hang the critics!”

Karan Johar: “I was really angered by a blog that appeared on a website called the First Post. The blogger questioned the depiction of the homosexual character and why he had to be the home breaker who bit the hand that fed him. And it was just a ridiculous, idiotic piece of writing because the blogger did not understand the layers and the complexities of the film. In India if you are depicting a homosexual character you are expected to portray him as a victim in order to express empathy. But my take was completely different.

I was looking at the issue of inadequate parenting! A macho father who calls his son a eunuch, a man who can’t tell the difference between a homosexual and a eunuch and who thinks he can beat his son into normalcy. That is parental abuse, which messes up the child big time. Now that child grows up to become a destructive human being and he doesn’t hesitate to seduce his friend’s husband. So it’s a commentary on parenting and the blogger who was extremely venomous had failed to understand the film!”

Zoya Akhtar: “There was a lot of bad stuff said about my film but stuff that you couldn’t put your finger on. Like: it should have been cut differently or that it was too abrupt or that it should have gone on longer. But what really bothered me was this guy who tweeted that the film was absolutely repulsive to see a child cross dress. I’m not on twitter but I wanted to write to him and tell him, “This is a film for you”. I grew up with boys and we would all cross dress. Some of the boys grew up to realise they were gay while others went on to get married, have children and the rest. It’s also nice to play act.

Girls have much more things you can wear, shoes, lipstick so its more fun. The point is when you’re an eight year old boy it can go any which way. And you cannot be repulsed by what a child does. I found this person’s comments very disturbing and I hope he or she does not have children. This sort of comment is indicative of moral policing and placing people in predetermined sexual modes and gender branding and there’s no place there for a child’s world.”

Dibakar Banerjee: “I am not the right person to ask because I don’t read reviews. Someone once wrote: “We think this is a copy of Satyajit Ray.” Now that was nasty. But then there was also this review in The Times of India that had a line I have never understood. “The presence of Emo in Banerjee’s film was more whimsy than control.” Can someone tell me what that means? When I make a film I don’t try to show off my language skills, I just try to make a film. When critics write they too should not rely only on their linguistic skills but there should be some substance in what they say. “More whimsy than control”? Now my films have lots of issues and those can be discussed. But I don’t think lack of control is my problem.”

Documentaries are short films on certain issues pertaining to some certain topics.The list with some points that underline the great variety of the genre. Some of the different modes may even be seen as partial descriptions of subgenres:

Functions of the film, metaphorically described (by personification): A documentary film can be seen to function as a prophet - explorer - painter - advocate - bugler - prosecutor - observer - catalyst - guerrilla - performer - therapist - spin doctor.

Some important necessary points are given below which make up a basic documentary or are essential points to be kept in mind :

Correspondence: Statements and details of film are not lies or fiction but in accordance with actual or historical facts, events and persons.

Coherence: The film constitutes a well-argued, non-contradictory whole.

Pragmatic or conventionalist view: The film is in line with predominant views and general, long termed discursive practice.

Relativism or constructivism: As you like, or how we make sense of things.

Illumination theory of truth: To become enlightened, to see and hear and understand more, to become inspired and gain insight (perhaps recollection).

Intentions of the filmmaker: Enthusiasm and commitment, the filmmaker wants to explore, to probe and to show us something important or otherwise overlooked; devoted to a cause or to people, trying to make a difference (not just making money, having fun or exposing herself).

Subject matter, themes or content: Something of importance and relevance; historical, social or natural phenomena; persons and places of significance. (Note, however, that modern TV-audiences seem to find significance in what critics may call rather trivial "everyday documentaries" (in Danish "hverdagsdokumentar.")

Expectations of the (general) audience: Authenticity, insight, disclosure, something about real people and problems, learning something.

Target groups (implied): General public (public service), or segments with a more specialized interest and knowledge on the subject in question.

Ethics: We expect truthfulness, not lies or distortion, even when the film is committed to high ideals and values. The film may reflect its own intervening and perhaps ethically problematic role in relation to participants and general context. Carefulness, but also boldness in addressing tabooed subjects.

Communicative function: To inform, discuss, engage, enlighten, intervene, explore, express, disturb and commit - more so than to merely entertain, amuse, distract, conform or confirm (e.g. a religious or political community).

Recordings: On location, authentic settings and props, real time, real sound, no actors or acting, but actual people (or animals, in nature documentaries) being themselves. Drama and narrative appear not imposed on the scenes, but emerging from the actual (pro-filmic) events.


Importance and evaluation: In terms of context and communicative qualities, the film makes a considerable contribution towards a better world…

Today, in fact people who shoot short films and some of the members of the cinema feel that era of documentaries is about to begin because now people want to know the actual situation, condition around them and want to make themselves aware about it .

Documentaries are one of our most valuable art forms – but unfortunately, one of our most neglected as well. Stop me if you have heard this before, most documentaries are not journalistic at all, they rely on effects such as music, they manipulate reality, they are cheaply made dramas without actors with few pretensions to seriousness. Some even suggest that they pander to our worst voyeuristic impulses. Documentaries have a way to bring us into the realization of what otherwise might have been a two minute story on the local news.

If you read “three dead in tragic murder suicide” in the newspaper, the chances are that it might stick with you for a bit, and then leave your mind never to return. If you were to watch a documentary on who these people were, what made them unique, you might celebrate their lives and mourn their passing. Documentaries can do that, they open a window and allow us to have a look in someone else’s reality, however brief it may be.

Last modified on Thursday, 04 July 2013 17:46
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