Befriending the New

By Kennith Rosario, India

Kennith Rosario

A queue without a source, a crowd spilling onto the streets, and a handful of people elbowing their way around to sell ‘black tickets’ long after a show has been sold out. Those are flashes from my earliest memories of visiting single-screen cinemas as a child. From then to now, nearly two decades later, Indian cinema and its audience have changed, evolved and rebelled in abundance, but the movies continue to remain a celebration. We are a country with a vibrant imagination, where we think in images and express ourselves in dance and music. It hardly comes as a surprise then that cinema is one of the most influential art forms, which has shaped several chambers of our social fabric — from popular culture to fashion to politics.

With several regions cultivating their own brand of cinema in their own language, Indian filmmakers today are exploring subjects previously avoided — from caste politics to sexual desires of ordinary women to Naxal insurgency — those that mirror the contemporary times. Small budget indie films are garnering revenue and making profits, while hackneyed mainstream movies are being snubbed at the box-office. Digital content has just begun to bite into the market by luring in popular filmmakers and actors. And, government censorship continues to remain an impediment. Naturally, the discourse around it all is equally robust but often chaotic. While there are journalistic voices that are driven by favouritism, government sycophancy and corporate interests; independent and critical opinions continue to find space and readership.

In this madness, where film critics are a dime a dozen — from bloggers to trade analysts — finding your own voice and audience through the traditional, old-school newspaper space poses as a daunting yet exciting challenge for me. There is ample literature generated on any given film on a daily basis, especially on international cinema, an area I primarily write on. To break through the clutter, my unwavering effort has been on elevating the discourse of cinema as an art form, and contextualising it in the socio-political times we live in; without being smug or authoritative. Cinema, like any art, speaks to different people in a unique way. It's a completely democratic space. Having understood that, I value every reader's opinion and do not feign expertise. However, as a young, upcoming critic, I believe, my true relevance lies in supporting new talent and ideas that are often either misunderstood, underexposed or simply lacking in resources to reach out to a wider (or right) audience. These are times when, as a critic, I engage in a conversation with my reader, and try to explain why a seemingly boring, complex or ‘artsy’ film matters to the contemporary society and the heritage of cinema at large. The role of a film critic goes beyond the mere analysis and study of a motion picture. As a critic (and a journalist who writes on cinema, literature, art and culture), discovering and promoting micro-narratives — like the queer, indigenous and marginalised voices — is of utmost importance to me. For there is no doubt that the new needs friends, perhaps now more than ever before.