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Ep. 86: Three exemplars of Indian cinema in 2022: RRR, The Kashmir Files, and Kantara

Ep. 86: Three exemplars of Indian cinema in 2022: RRR, The Kashmir Files, and Kantara

Länge: 14:14
A version of this essay was published by firstpost.com at https://www.firstpost.com/opinion/shadow-warrior-three-exemplars-of-indian-cinema-in-2022-rrr-the-kashmir-files-and-kantara-11940742.html
2022 was a watershed year for Indian cinema and cinephiles. At long last, the formulaic Hindi/Urdu cinema that has dominated both mindshare and box office took a beating, for it appears to no longer appeal to the consuming public. It has long been accused of lack of originality; its anti-Indian slant, and especially its overt anti-Hindu stance, have now begun to annoy large numbers of viewers. They voted with their wallets, as per BookMyShow.
The yeoman efforts by @GemsofBollywood to demonstrate bad faith on the part of the industry have had an impact, as can be seen from the number of expensive flops: Lal Singh Chaddha, Shamshera, Raksha Bandhan, Cirkus, Dobaara, Liger. They should change course, though given the current crop of agenda-ridden poseurs and nepo-kids, it’s not clear they can.
As a direct consequence of the arrival a few years ago of high-bandwidth fiber-to-the-home, many cinema viewers have also become accustomed to a wide range of offerings on OTT like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. This has made them aware of cinema from around the world that frankly shows that Bollywood has always been inferior in content and form, except for the film music (at least in earlier days). 
I was at one time a cineaste, enjoying the 20th century works of Kurosawa, Ray, Eisenstein, the Italian and French masters, Bergman, and the Indian New Wave. It was easy to dismiss the cinematic quality of the Mumbai film industry; but it has always been influential, and has set the narrative about India both internally and in the developing world, as well as Russia and Japan. 
For a variety of reasons (including simple prejudice), the Mumbai film industry has not been able to make a mark on Western audiences, and RRR is the first Indian film to make waves in the US market. In a positive write-up about why RRR deserves an Oscar, perhaps for Best Picture (yes, not for Best International Feature), Douglas Laman suggests that Indian films have been unfairly ignored (h/t Hari G).
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The fact is that all three of the films that became visible successes in 2022 (along with other big box-office successes KGF 2, Ponniyin Selvan, Pushpa) have origins outside the formulaic Mumbai industry, and it may well be the beginning of a trend. The three are distinctive and different, and it is arguable that they are archetypes of three types or even three genres of cinema. 
Cinema as spectacle
RRR is cinema as spectacle (harking back to the big Hollywood productions whose intent it was to awe); The Kashmir Files is realistic, almost documentary in tone; and Kantara, the most difficult to precisely pigeonhole, is impressionistic, a cultural phenomenon immersing you in a world that you must be an insider to fully appreciate. 
RRR is the easiest for audiences to appreciate, because it compels suspension of disbelief, and draws you into its make-believe world with its fantastic stunts and subtle theme of rebellion against authority and cruel white colonialism (which appeals to the newly woke sentiment of film fans especially in the US). It is cinema as entertainment; the dances and the swashbuckling take center stage with the buddy story while the freedom struggle is sort of in the background.
In a sense this kind of cinema is the lineal descendant of the story-tellers and bards of old. In India we had the katha-kalakshepam artists and traveling theater troupes telling/performing stories from the Puranas. Similarly, in many places there were shadow-puppet shows, again with heroic stories from the epics (like the wayang kulit of Java). Children would sit breathless often in dim lamplight, entranced by tales of brave warriors and fair maidens. 
SS Rajamouli, the director of RRR, is in
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Erscheinungs­datum: 6.1.2023, 11:29:39


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