By Prarthana Mitra
In most developed countries, Dinesh B. Singh tells Qrius, it is a tradition to get every generation to watch classic movies to make them aware about the history and the relevance of their own cultures. “We also owe it our next generation; besides these are really good for family entertainment.”
It is this vision that led to the conception of a unique film festival to be held in Delhi later this month. Navrasa Duende‘s World Classic Movie Festival (WCMF) curated and helmed by Singh, aims to fill in certain gaps in the film viewing culture in India. The leading production house was also responsible for the staging of Swan Lake around the country, a year-long tour by a Russian ballet troupe that ended in April.
At the film festival, Navrasa Duende has an eclectic catalogue of films on show, include timeless Hollywood classics, blockbuster films, art house films, experimental films, gems of meditative cinema, and milestones of neo-realistic cinema, which is perhaps Singh’s favourite among the genres.
“World cinema brings you closer to the world communities without prejudice, with their uncanny ability to translate pain, suffering, joy and love in the universal language of the visual medium that transcends geographical boundaries or cultural dialects,” says Singh.
Ray, Bergman, Tarkovsky and more
Juxtaposed against classic Hollywood films like Doctor Zhivago and Gone With the Wind are some neo-realistic movies from all corners of the world. Neorealism, at least in its most nascent form, tends to focus on fringe characters that constitute city life, following their seemingly mundane struggles through the lens of satire. Ibsen and Chekhovian realism experienced a revival in Italy after the Second World War, with classics such as Bicycle Thieves by Vittorio de Sica and Umberto Eco’s Rome Open City, and the rest is history.
Neorealist cinema has had its place in India as well. Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen remained affirmed neorealists throughout their careers spanning over six decades, speaking on various occasions and interviews about how the parallel new wave in Italy and Russia inspired them.
Singh says that watching these films goes a long way in shaping the filmmakers of tomorrow, as they expose one to different modes of storytelling and techniques, who made such terrific and powerful motion pictures at a time when technological advancement was minimal.
The parallel movements in the Swedish, Russian and Japanese film industries, led by Ingmar Bergman, Andrei Tarkovsky and Akira Kurosawa, brought the much-needed poetics to cinema, often resorting to myths and magic realism to tell uncompromising stories. Much like Frederico Fellini’s 8 ½, another Italian neo-realistic gem, Wild Strawberries, Ivan’s Childhood, and Throne of Blood uphold universal themes with iconoclastic images.
Travelling through space and time through cinema
By bringing together on a single platform films that embody the old and the new, the Orient and the Occident, and most importantly perhaps, entertainment and education, the festival underscores the cultural significance of passing these films down for generations, and how important it is for children to be exposed to such films from an early age. Lot of things one experiences as a matter of ritual, later get ingrained as part of the tradition and culture which we keep passing from generations to generations, tells Singh.
On whether he foresees a revival of neo-realism in the near future, Singh says the genre is cyclical by nature and usually coincides with socio-political transitions. “In India where the audience is constantly fed with soap operas and fed up of clichés, they are now looking out for something new and this void is filled by directors with fire in their belly. In the thirties V.Shantaram did it; the fifties and sixties saw Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak; seventies saw the emergence of Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shyam Benegal amongst others. So I am hopeful.”
At a time when the filmmaking and film viewing culture is being increasingly usurped by the commercial industry, these events can help “open a dialogue and foster a community of art lovers” who are keen to explore the world through different artistic mediums including cinema.
The World Classic Movie Festival will be held at Delhi’s Siri Fort auditorium from June 22-24.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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