Social Relevance and the Silver Screen | Madhur Bhandarkar, Prakash Belawadi

The final session of Chaavadi at the Magaluru Lit fest ‘19 featured an interesting panel comprising of Madhur Bhandarkar, Prakash Belawadi and Malavika Avinash. The panel discussed the relevance and responsibility of cinema in our rapidly changing country. The discussion started with the past of Indian cinema and how producers used to rely on class inequality to strike a chord with audiences. Recently filmmakers have started taking more risks and investing cautiously in a wide range of genres and stories. Bhandarkar talked about the challenges faced by filmmakers like himself in securing funding to make new kinds of films as producer’s aren’t confident of getting a return on their investment. Prakash mentioned how the audience has an active role in communicating their preferences to the industry by actively encouraging films they like. According to the panellists, film has a disproportionately high impact on society when compared to other media as the problems filmmakers choose to showcase and the behaviour of characters can shift public perception greatly. Bhandarkar spoke about Traffic Light and how the public perception around beggars completely changed after the film came out and how such a change in perception can have both positive and negative effects so a filmmaker should tread with caution. Prakash chimed in saying that filmmakers choose artificial conflicts when real and more serious conflicts exist which the public never see. There was a palpable tension in the air when Malavika brought up the topic of female-centric films in Bollywood and Bhandarkar spoke at length about challenges such as funding, marketing and pay of women in cinema. According to Bhandarkar as soon as audiences are excited about watching female-centric films or certain actresses, the problem of wage inequality in the film industry would be fixed as producers would be confident to bank a female-centric film. All panellists were positive in their outlook for the industry as female-centric films are becoming more bankable and the rise of streaming services has empowered the writers by giving them multiple avenues to sell their stories. Prakash pointed out that with increasing urbanisation and the rise of streaming services, India was at a tipping point and the industry must react appropriately to deliver content that resonates with audiences and also drives the industry further in terms of diversity and inclusivity. The panel discussion was followed by a brief interactive session with the audience. The panellists were presented with mementos from the Mangaluru Literary Society.

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