GANGAR: The ‘archaeology’ of Indian cinema has very few relics of ‘independent’ cinema in the context of the cinema of prayoga. How independent is independent cinema in India?
AVIKUNTHAK: Historically once the studio system collapsed after the World War II, Indian films have been independent. That is, if you define independent cinema like the American Independent cinema. But I think this term ‘independent’ cinema, has no meaning in India. Indian cinema has always been part of capitalist modes of production, and therefore, very conservative. Politically, in the late 40s and early 50s, in the immediate wake of the country’s independence movement and freedom, some radical cinema happened but that was co-opted by the rising commerce.
Then it was only the state funded cinema that offered possibility of producing radical cinema in the 70s, because perhaps they were beyond the logic of capital and commerce. Along with the political pessimism of the post-Naxalite India, the state funded cinema did produce some exceptional cinema, but I think that radicalism was only limited to the type of subject matter chosen. Like most of the commercial stuff, they just wrote different scripts, and attempted to tell a story which was not often seen on the screen in Indian cinema theatres. Other than Mani Kaul, Kumar Shahani, G. Aravindan and John Abraham, I don’t see any filmmaker attempting to experiment with narrative, form or content. In the Indian context, the genealogy of the cinema of prayoga only comes, according to me, from these four filmmakers, who were in some way indebted to Ritwik Ghatak for their cinematographic radicalism.
The documentary short filmmakers who are part of Vikalp can be called the independent cinema in India, they come closest to the idea. However even with documentary cinema, the “genrification” has taken roots, and it has become a hybrid between television aesthetic and propaganda.