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Bollywood crushes independent cinema: Dev Benegal

entertainment Updated: Oct 02, 2009 18:15 IST
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His Road, Movie has already created a buzz in international film circuits with its rich portrayal of Indian landscape but filmmaker Dev Benegal believes that Bollywood has no place for independent directors like him.

"There is no future for independent films in India. The only thing that survives is Bollywood or Bollywood Lite," Benegal told PTI in an interview.

The filmmaker says that so called "independent movies" in Bollywood are really just low budgeted imitations of mainstream cinema. "Its the same formula, the same structure without A-list stars," he adds.

Benegal's latest film Road, Movie starring actor Abhay Deol, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Satish Kaushik, was the only film to be picked up by leading global sales agent Fortissimo Films at the Cannes this year despite the presence of Bollywood heavyweights like Kites and Kambakkht Ishq.

It is also the only Indian movie to have debuted as a 'Special Presentation' at the recently concluded Toronto International Film Festival. The movie is now headed for Tokyo Film Festival, where it has been nominated in the competition section.

Benegal shot to fame with his debut movie English August, which was released in 1994 and won the National Film Award for the Best Feature Film in English. The film starring Rahul Bose was about a disgruntled yet curious new recruit into the Indian Administrative Service.

The Cambridge University graduate also assisted his uncle Shyam Benegal on several of his movies before carving a niche for himself with English August and Split Wide Open, which have created a platform for independent cinema in India.

Benegal's latest film tells the story of a young Vishnu who escapes his family's hair oil business and travels across the country in a truck with a striking gypsy woman and two old film projectors.

"Its about the incredible beauty and the raw, rugged quality of the Indian landscape and finding love and laughter," says Benegal, adding the film is inspired from his own travels as young filmmaker in India.

"Special economic zones are flattening the landscape for people to shop. I had to make it before the Indian landscape disappears," he says.

Despite the welcome reception of the Indian audience for independent films, Benegal insists that it is an uphill task to get funding and arrange distribution for off-beat films in the country.

"Bollywood does not allow for any other expression. It is tougher to make movies in India than in any other part of the world," Benegal says.

He believes that the refusal to accept "Bollywood drivel" by an intelligent Indian audience is leading up to so many flops. "With 8 out 10 movies failing, Bollywood is a model of failure not of success," he says.

Another thing about the mainstream Bollywood that disturbs Benegal is "objectification of women". "The films made by women directors are better. But by and large it is comfortable for the mainstream to keep women in those roles," he added.