beginning to seem that many a young director, in trying ostensibly to follow such simplistic reasoning while in reality chasing the shadow ofSatyajit Ray, unwittingly succumbs to a sort of reverse bias. Restricting his vision to repetitive works on a limited number of themes such as intercaste rivalry, the oppression of the unorganized poor by a feudal ruling class, the urban/rural power struggle, and the like, he ends up, more often than not by constructing a synthetic view of reality that is hardly more enriching than those of the Hindi tear jerkers.
In spite of Satyajit Ray's continuing creative dominance, the traditionally humanist school of realism seems by and large to be exhausting its relevance in India as well as elsewhere in the world. Yet so deeply rooted has acceptance of this credo become with our intelligentsia, that anyone attempting to transcend it is invariably and vociferously charged with elitism. If the realist tradition in the cinema, born of the film jottings of the Lumieres, has developed in the documentary and narrative streams to give us the works of such directors as Flaherly, Ray, Rosseliini and Olmi, one may equally argue that the cinema has given us at least as many true masterpieces—in the works of such directors as Bunuel, Fellini, Bergman, Ghatak and Tarkovsky—to decisively illustrate that fable and metaphor can illuminate reality in deeper and more powerful terms.
Almost since the medium's inception, there has been a handful of haun-tingly enduring works that seem to suggest that perhaps the intrinsic nature of the cinema is neither to offer dope to the puerile fantasies of the brutalized mob nor, as the art-literary critics would like, to be a simple chronicle of actual events in dramatized forms. Instead these films seem to say that the cinema is intrinsically a medium of visions and irrationality, of dreams, metaphor and myths— all of which go to make it not unreal but ultmreal. This awareness would seem especially pertinent to Indian filmmakers, faced as they are with manifold bureaucratic controls, arbitrary acts of censorship or just the sheer complexity of creating authentic representations of these confusing times. In this situation, also, we cannot consider the freedom to experiment with form as frivolous and unnecessary. It must be seen to be an activity of crucial importance. To accept existing forms—popular or parallel—without extending them, to seek to marry them with themes of supposed social relevance when such couplings have neither integrity nor widespread impact, is only to reflect the impotence of professionals and professionalism.
In any case, mere verisimilitude does not constitute true realism. Mistakenly, it assumes that taking a camera and filming real events in good faith will result in a true and objective version of those events, regardless of the personality or intent at work behind the camera. There is a real danger in this commonly accepted notion of the camera's absolute, objective eye because as an artifice it is still credible and therefore powerful. Here one might mention something that is obvious to any competent filmmaker because it is so often news to the ordinary viewer: it is the very selection of shots, both during shooting and editing, as well as the subjective emotion brought about through mise en scene and montage that
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