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False notion that Bollywood is Indian cinema is dissolving at a rapid rate, says Srijit Mukherji on diversity 

Filmmakers Srijit Mukherji, Ananth Narayan Mahadevan, and Abhishek Shah were a part of the discussion, ‘The Diversity in Indian Cinema’, held on Friday, 22 November at the 50th edition of IFFI. 

Our Correspondent

The golden jubilee celebrations at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) are all about celebrating the cinemas of India and an integral part of this was a panel discussion titled ‘The Diversity in Indian Cinema’, on Friday, 22 November. Bengali filmmaker Srijit Mukherji, actor-filmmaker Ananth Narayan Mahadevan, Gujarati filmmaker Abhishek Shah were a part of the discussion, moderated by Sunit Tandon, the former director of the festival.

In an thought-provoking session, the filmmakers spoke about the notion of diversity while contemplating the relationship between Hindi cinema and regional cinemas in the current context of the growing popularity and success of regional films. Mahadevan, who has worked across various industries in a multitude of languages, spoke about his career, beginning with a British film in which he acted alongside the legendary Peter O’Toole and going on to do roles in Hindi and Tamil films and directing Marathi films, saying, "I have tried to bridge the diversity in the country and make it one."

Srijit Mukherji, whose film Begum Jaan (2017) has been remade into Hindi from his successful and critically acclaimed Bengali film Rajkahini (2015), discussed the process behind remaking one’s own film and the cultural adjustments that one needs to make in order to be able to translate that same experience from one language and context to another.

He went on to elaborate the importance of film festivals where films from different languages are showcased and audiences outside are becoming aware that cinemas in India is not just limited to Hindi films, saying, "The false notion that Bollywood [Hindi cinema] is Indian cinema is dissolving at a rapid rate."

Abhishek Shah, whose film Hellaro (2019) has been widely praised, highlighted the role of Doordarshan that showcased regional cinema on television, saying, "Ï learnt cinema from watching TV. Watching those films was actually a film school for me,” and spoke about the ways in which he consciously tried to stay away from seminal works that were situated in Gujarat, specifically Mirch Masala (1987), in order to find his own story.

While celebrating diversity in the country, the filmmakers contemplated the ways in which diversity could sometimes be a double-edged sword. The rapid pace at which regional films are being picked up to be remade into Hindi, is evidence enough that there is a rush of new ideas and energy in regional films that is not being witnessed in mainstream Hindi cinema. Mahadevan commented, "One of the biggest  banes of diversity is that it has destroyed the originality of Hindi cinema. Hindi cinema seems to have a loss of subjects."

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