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January 21, 2015

How ‘indie’ became elite

Text by Nittal Chandarana

Verve traces the path of independent cinema to its current envious position of fence-sitting between the parallel and the commercial. The indie have become the elite

There was a time when the word indie was laced with stigma and connected to phrases like ‘different’, ‘irregular’, ‘rebellious’, ‘intense’ and such. But over the course of the years, this genre has established a strong foothold in the industry. A lot of the acceptance of this genre stems from the fact that the same words used to demean it are now essential catchphrases. Wouldn’t you want your product to be different, irregular and rebellious? The world has shifted gears and suddenly cerebral and geeky is in. Sheldon Cooper is celebrated. Nerdfighters rule the world. Intelligence is sexy.

And so we find, Anurag Kashyap is cool. Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus  (2013) was validated by a National Award. Kangna Ranaut’s insightful interviews went viral. Bollywood flung its doors (and bank accounts) open to this new wave of cinema. The indie became the elite. The indie world had a certain level of snobbery about it because it brought new-age and experimental into the forefront. But that’s no longer the definition. A different sort of music has seeped into our hearts and iPods. Be it Sneha Khanwalkar’s path-breaking music for the Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) saga or Amit Trivedi’s crazy tracks for Dev D (2009). Who knew an Emosanal Attyachar would work? We laughed at it, tried to write it off, but it stuck out like the sorest thumb among the Pritam and Vishal-Shekhar melodies and hey, it worked. Bollywood had a new song to sing.

In terms of movies, a coming-together of sorts happened when Kiran Rao presented Ship of Theseus. This was also seen when Karan Johar produced The Lunchbox  (2013) . Also on that production list were Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane. You need money to make your own set of crazies! Production Houses like UTV have branched out into smaller experimental ventures like UTV Spotboy. The very fact that the beautiful Aankhon Dekhi  (2014) received a commercial release shows how far we’ve come but note, Filmistaan (2012; commercial release 2014) took two whole years to release. A huge shoutout to actor Abhay Deol who was one of the pioneers of the indie wave but got lost somewhere in the art-commercial confusion. Conversely, Randeep Hooda, who was once the sweetheart of parallel cinema ‘graduated’ to commercial cinema with Highway (2014). And there are those like Tanishtha Chatterjee who prefer to walk the road of parallel cinema alone.

Indie has caught up and even blurred lines with Bollywood. Thankfully, we don’t have the class divide that Hollywood does…the one time we steer clear of a class divide! Hollywood has the Cannes Film Festival, the Toronto Film Festival and more for independent cinema, but even Brad Pitt does a one-off Tree of Life (2011) before finding his way back with Moneyball (2011). Oh there’s magic in the movies if we manage to enjoy the contrast that movies like Rowdy Rathore (2012), Dabangg (2010, 2012) and Action Jackson (2014) provide to an Udaan (2014). It makes the victory of an Aankhon Dekhi so much sweeter.

The genre ‘indie’ is classified as one wherein artists find a way to finance their work themselves; no middle party involved. All our independent filmmakers now are hugely successful and even have production houses of their own, helping new directors break into an industry that once ruthlessly sealed its doors to new faces. Good wave? Great wave! We look forward to some great cinema in 2015.

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