New Delhi, Aug 16 No longer is "Breathless", "Rashomon" and "Amores Perros" the preserve of the well heeled at Delhi's arty evenings. Critically acclaimed international films like these have struck a chord among non-elite audiences thanks to small groups "fighting for serious cinema".
The drive to promote world cinema here was started by cultural centres like India Habitat Centre, the British Council of India and India International Centre.
It gained momentum ever since "drawing room discussion groups" joined the bandwagon and started small film clubs like Kriti Film Club, Cine Darbaar, Grey Zone Film Club, Mocha Film Club and Zoltán Fábri Film Club, named after the famous Hungarian film director. And these are not among the 18 registered ones in Delhi.
Each one of these is trying to "educate the audience" by showing the acclaimed works of iconic directors like Jean-Luc Godard, Akira Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman. But their responsibility doesn't end with the screening.
For them, the more important part is to hold stimulating discussions post-screenings.
Gautam Kaul, president of the Delhi Film Society, welcomes the trend and says: "It is an extension of the film society movement. Young people are coming together with the DVDs of their favourite directors and discussing films. It is a very welcome sign."
Often these clubs tie up with the cultural centres of different countries and the latter bear the cost. Also, they use social networking sites like Facebook to draw enthusiasts.
The film clubs handpick movies on the basis of the creative work of a director, actor, screenplay writer and sometimes even the cinematographer.
Kaul believes such initiatives are important, considering there is a dearth of literature on foreign filmmakers.
"In my time, we used to have magazines like ‘Sight and Sound’ that talked about film production and creativity. Today we have magazines, which do not talk about production at all. They are concerned about the private lives of actors. That's the disadvantage of this generation," Kaul said.
"But when the youngsters sit down in large numbers to watch a movie, they are basically sitting down for a film class. I welcome this trend," he added.
Supriya Suri, who studied filmmaking in Paris, was so smitten by the cine club culture there that she began her own after returning to India.
"In Paris, people take their interests very seriously. They attend screenings; they know about the history and tradition of cinema. Film clubs are very active over there. I am trying to replicate the same culture in India," she said.
Suri launched the Cine Darbaar film club in February 2009 in collaboration with two of her friends and has so far organised 20 movie festivals across the capital. From a retrospective of Ang Lee films to showcasing Iranian cinema, Cine Darbaar has been religiously screening quality movies in packed halls.
Cine Darbaar on an average gets 200 film enthusiasts for every screening, which happens at least once a month. Entry is free.
"We want people to take cinema more seriously and not just as an entertainment medium. We want to change the viewing habits of people. We want to expose them to more mature cinema," Suri said.
She also believes criticism is essential for film education and that is why her team tries to engage viewers in serious discussions on every aspect of moviemaking.
"After every screening, we ask the viewers about their interpretation of the film. Each one of us interprets cinema in a different way. We try to show the director's point of view, as to what he tried to show through the film," said Suri.
Thanks to these thought-provoking sessions, many movie aficionados have developed a critical eye towards the craft. Take the case of Ankit Varma, 24, a regular at these festivals.
Talking about his experience of watching "Vertigo" at the Alfred Hitchcock Film Festival, he said: "In the discussion, one possible interpretation that came up was that the director has used the 'spiral' theme in the movie. Right from the heroine's hairstyle to the design of the staircase, the examples made sense as the theme was perfectly in sync with the film's title."
Futuristically speaking, it might be long before Godard or Kurosawa or Bergman become household names, but you never know. As Godard himself once said: "Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world."