The curious case of missing cities in Indian cinema

New Delhi: Are Indian filmmakers still fixated with Mumbai? Although movies are being shot in different cities and towns in India but obsession with the cinematic ambience still shadows over the portrayal of these `new cities`, say eminent filmmakers.

Filmmakers agreed that cities in India, small towns or big metros have been portrayed in a stereotypical fashion in our movies and that contemporary Indian filmmakers despite shooting in `new cities` today still cannot get over the `Mumbai imagery`.

"Mumbai has been shown so much in our cinema that one doesn`t know if other cities in India exist. The recurring imagery of Mumbai is seen in Wasseypur set in Dhanbad as well.

"Apart from the underworld and the slum what else have we shown about Mumbai, anyway?," asked `Peepli Live` director Anusha Rizvi at a recent seminar here on the centenary of the Indian Cinema, organized by MohallaLive.

She further said that location is an important part of films but unfortunately not much importance has been laid on that in contemporary Indian cinema.

"I agree that `Udaan` is a good film but where is Jamshedpur in it? Where is Mumbai in Shanghai?," she asked.

Sudhir Mishra, who made `Dharavi` in 1991, said, "The feudal structure of Bollywood is today challenged by filmmakers rising from small towns and the democratisation of technology will only put the power in their hands to make their cinema and tell their stories, of their cities, of their community."

Not just the atmosphere, even the intangible cultural imprints are slowly disappearing form our cinema, reduced either to a stereotype or a mere lifeless cinematic backdrop.

Sanjay Chouhan, screenplay writer of `Paan Singh Tomar`, said, "I initially wrote the dialogues majorly in Bundelkhandi, a dialect spoken where Paan Singh Tomar was born but we were later asked to write it in Hindi with a flavour of Bundelkhandi."

TV journalist Ravish Kumar of `Ravish Ki Report` fame further raised about the absence of other cities of India or the absence of "other cities within the same mega city" that we call Mumbai or Delhi, from our mainstream cinema today.

"In `Raajneeti`, apart from the fine guest houses, what Bhopal does on see anyway? At least films like `Gangs of Wasseypur` are venturing into the uncharted territories and trying to tell the story of small towns. The old, weather-beaten map of Dhanbad in the film cannot be ignored, as it tells a story of the region," the journalist said.

"Now, one doesn`t even see Delhi in our cinema. Qutub Minar is nowadays shown as a framed photo in the background," said Ravi Kant, panelist and scholar from Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), here.

"Every city has its own tehzeeb (etiquette) and to reduce their representations to mere presence of malls and plush apartments like they do it for metropolitan cities is to take away the soul of the city you are trying to portray," Afzal Jamal, a young filmmaker said.


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