Where Does The Small Meaningful Film Go?

My old  dedicated driven and sensitive filmmaker friend Onir is heartbroken. This week  his latest film Kuch Bheege Alfaaz bravely and defiantly produced by the music giant Saregama’s film branch Yoodlee Films,  opened  in the most unearthly shows in selected multiplexes while all the primetime shows went to Padmaavat, PadMan and Aiyaary.

 This is known as the  big fish eating up the small fish. Unapologetically. It is the rule of the jungle. Only the mighty survive. I’ve seen so many  “small” films with a  large heart being a victim of  theatre-bullying. How many oeople actually saw the highly-laudded Masaan  or  Newton in the  movie theatre?

So what happens to the small but significant film , the kind that has always struggled for space since  Bimal Roy made Kabulliwala and Raj Kapoor made Jagte Raho? Today when the number of theatres has grown so dramatically and the theatres are sophisticated venues of enjoyable engagement , the small significant cinema is still suffering in silence.Like the neglected wife of a bullying husband.

Last year there was  Milind Dhaimade’s Tu Hai Mera Sunday  that big-little charmer the  odd gem which we are lucky enough to get at least once a year in  our  cinema-going experience. That  film got cent-percent positive reviews with critics raving over the work.

 But did it help? No! Why would a critically acclaimed film not get an audience?  Because critics seldom make  a difference to a film’s  boxoffice destiny. If they did , the Oscar-nominated  films would be  flooded with audience attendance . Instead  the theatres across the  country screening  Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water and earlier Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread wore a gloomy deserted look while Black Panther the comicbook contraption of hideously inflated  dimensions conveyed a seriously festive look as audiences clapped and cheered at  the 3D monstrosity where everyone  and everything was larger than life. It’s what the ticket-paying audience wants.

 It is very simple, really. If you want to conquer the masses  a  movie ,  fill the theatre with sound and  fury signifying a  “nothing” beyond the “something” that cinema  was  always  meant to convey. As  for Onir and  his Kuch Bheege Alfaaz  it must find  an audience beyond the massive infrastructure  of  the film bazaar.

Maybe  the internet is a solution. But then I saw  this delicate  fragile tender film first  on  the small screen and then in the cinema.All the delicacy, fragility and tenderness is lost on the small screen. So what do we do?  Where does Onir take  his  creative impulses?

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