24 October 2007

SIGHT AND SOUND FILM MAGAZINE AND ITS LACK OF INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE - Why overlook Bollywood Cinema?



The following is a letter that I wrote to Sight and Sound in 2005 and which was published as letter of the month. The letter provoked a number of responses, mostly by people disagreeing with what I had to say about Bollywood and in particular my lack of accuracy with facts about Indian Cinema. Unfortunately, the letter that was published was inaccurately published by Sight and Sound and after nearly 6 months of complaints and angry emails, the magazine apologised in print for their editorial mismanagment. Here is the letter in full:

Having been a regular reader and subscriber to Sight & Sound for the last decade, I continue to be frustrated by the lack of critical appreciation for Bollywood mainstream and arthouse cinema. Though Sight & Sound does provide far greater opportunities for exploring alternative and marginalised cinematic forms, resisting Hollywood hegemonic complacency, it still needs to do much more when it comes to reviewing Bollywood cinematic releases. Up to fifteen new Indian films are released each month, sometimes more, depending upon the time of year. It is a general disappointment that Sight & Sound tends to overlook the broad range of films offered by Bollywood and Indian cinema. It is obviously hard not to review the prestige, tent poles films like the recent Aamir Khan release, The Rising : The Ballad of Mangal Pandey, but this does not accurately represent the vast technological and stylistic changes that have occured within Bollywood cinema over the last five years. The work of the prolific producer and director, Ram Gopal Verma, has yet to be acknowledged by Western film critics and his work seems to have been dismissed. Ram Gopal Verma is a true visionary in an industry that continues to be plagued with the disease of rampant Hollywood imitation and generic limitations. Sarkar, his recent underworld mumbai gangster epic has been hugely successful, yet at the heart of a film which is supported by a towering performnce by Amitabh Bachchan, lurks an unusually ambivalent sets of ideological struggles. Swades, Ap Tak Chappan, Yuva, Paheli, Parineeta and Company are just some of the other films which have been exceptionally startling in how they have opposed the conventions of mainstream Bollywood cinema. Admittedly, Bollywood still has a long way to go in how it treats arthouse cinema but it would be productive if Sight & Sound were to address the eurocentric imbalance and western bias that continues to haunt mainstream film culture and criticism.