Role of Culture
“Culture plays a dominant role in grooming the artistic instincts of a person.” This well-known aphorism needs no explanation. Now a question arises: does an ‘imported’ or ‘thrust’ culture has any influence on the native one and if so is it for the better or the worse? It is clear that man does not and cannot live in vacuum. Migration, mingling, absorption, annihilation etc are routine activities in the universe.
Therefore the present question is how would the creative instincts of a person blossom or wither under a new, and perhaps an alien, cultural influence? I think of the Karnatak music composer Muthuswami Dikshitar (1775-1835) and the Hindustani maestro Kumar Gandharva (1925-92). The former, a product of Tamil Nadu and culture, had gone on a pilgrimage to North India. He was so impressed by some of the Hindustani melodies that he re-created them to suit the Karnatak system and composed kritis in them. Today these compositions in raagas like Dwijaavanti and Hameerkalyaani are integral parts of the Karnatak system giving it a new dimension.
Kumar Gandharva hailing from Karnataka (his original name was Shivaputra Siddharamayya Komkali) adopted Dewas in Madhya Pradesh as his home. The local folk tunes of the tribes motivated him to forge a new style in Hindustani music.
I would like to clarify that the Dikshitar-phenomenon as an influence from outside (exo-influence) and the Gandharva-phenomenon from within (endo-influence). Now, substitute for ‘North India’ ‘Tulu Nadu’ and for ‘Hindustani’ ‘film.’ In each case, native creativity got an additional mode of art expression. To be more explicit the fusion of the ‘alien’ film culture with the ‘native’ Tulu culture has given it a new dimension which in turn has influenced art expression in Kannada films. Now, Tulu Nadu is an integral ingredient of the Karnataka culture whose major medium of expression is Kannada.
Films are generally divided into two categories: commercial and noncommercial. They are both art expressions and so creativity is their common denominator. There is however a subtle line dividing their modes of expression. In the commercial films, stress is on entertainment while it is on values in the noncommercial ones. Direct communication is a dominant element in the former. In the latter, the viewer is subtly prompted to infer the intention of the producer. Dhvani or ‘suggestion’ is the basic refrain here. Hence the epithet ‘serious’ to the noncommercial films has come to stay.
Nature of the film medium
At the FTII we carry out a lot of practical and demonstrative discussions on films, study their impact on the viewers, the roles played by the filmmakers’ and artists’ cultural backgrounds in film production and appreciation, how the Indian serious films fare in the world scenario etc. Ultimately the viewers are the arbiters on the success or failure of a film. For, as the proverb goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I should add here that such a proof depends on the eater’s taste and his cultivated habits too.
The viewer should be made to realize that drama and cinema are two different modes of art expression. In the drama, live characters re-create the scenes at each of the shows. Thus from show to show there is an imperceptible but continuous change though the theme, cast, scenes etc may be the same. Not so in the cinema medium. Here the same cast is repeated at each exhibition. Can we liken them to a live music concert and its canned version (cassette)?
The comparison of the film with canned music cannot be extended too far. For, in the cinema medium the possibilities of interpolation, juxtaposition, cut-and-paste (plastic surgery?), sudden shift of scenes, introduction of light-shade-colour-sound effects etc, know no limits. In this area of plastic surgery there is an immense scope for the producer to scale new peaks of excellence.
Why this difference? It is because the film presents concrete images and produces believable sounds. They are not impromptu live communications on the screen but shadows of an earlier production. The use of these images and sounds are mostly deliberate. But to the viewer they look real and enable him to arrive at his judgment. Thus suggestion to the viewer comes from apparent or make-believe reality.