It is very easy to stick a label. When Mrinal Sen’s Bhuvan Shome and Mani Kaul’s Uski Roti came in 1969, everybody hailed it as the Indian New Wave, akin to the French Nouvelle Vague. But it was, by no stretch of imagination, Indian New Wave. It was, at best, New Indian Cinema or Parallel Indian Cinema.
Directors such as Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Aravindan, Kumar Shahani, Shyam Benegal and Girish Kasaravalli among others contributed, strengthened and extended this Cinema. But all this happened four decades ago, and for the past 20 years or so, we have seen Indian cinema stuck in the same rut with clichéd stories, unbelievable scripts, actors who could not act (but managed to look good), and indifferent directors.
The recent emergence of helmers like Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and Ashim Ahluwalia, not to speak of Gurvinder Singh and Amit Dutta, has evoked a debate. Are their movies part of India’s New Wave? Is something different happening at last?
At a seminar organised during the ongoing Dubai International Film Festival, Ahluwalia (whose Miss Lovely was at Cannes and is also at Dubai) criticised the tendency among festival programmers and others to label his movie and those of others as the New Indian Wave. They are just about a new kind of Indian cinema. Also, it would be unfair to club his own work with, say, that of Kashyap’s. His Gangs of Wasseypur was very different from Miss Lovely.
During a chat with me, this afternoon, Ahluwalia said that while Gangs of Wasseypur might not really be an arthouse film, it was also incorrect to bunch together the new generation of moviemakers. Each had a very individualistic style and take.
Admittedly, all these auteurs were making a different kind of cinema, which was personal and more rooted. However, this cinema had only a small presence in India today, because the big Bollywood producers were not prepared to fund anything that was significantly different from the usual run-of-the mill films.
But what about audiences? Are they ready to see a different kind of cinema, different from star-driven fare, packed with songs and dances and far removed from reality? Yes, said Ahluwalia. Indians were now keen on seeing a more authentic kind of cinema, which did not insult their intelligence.
His Miss Lovely is a story of two brothers, one meek and the other strong, who churn out soft porn in the 1980s Bombay. The movie is garishly coloured to suit its seedy theme, and does capture the essence of the times, though its editing is epileptic, shots are shaky and characters are not quite fleshed out.
Finally, if Miss Lovely is not Bollywood, it is not arthouse either. What is it then? I would dare not label it, not as yet. We will wait for this kind of cinema to evolve a little more.