A New Direction for Indian Cinema ? by Tom Brook http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20130523-indian-cinema-getting-real As Cannes celebrates a centenary of Indian cinema, many Indian filmmakers believe a move away from the traditional Bollywood style is needed, as Tom Brook discovers. A fusion of classical Indian music and composer Talvin Singh’s drum and bass filled a big party organised by film officials from Mumbai at the Cannes Film Festival a few days ago. The celebrations were especially buoyant because this month marked 100 years of Indian cinema. Unsurprisingly there’s been a lot of marvelling over the wonders of Indian film. The man many regard as India’s top star, the venerated actor Amitabh Bachchan, believes Indian cinema has made great strides forward.“We’ve progressed tremendously in these last hundred years,” he says. “To be accepted not just within India but overseas as well is a fantastic feeling.” Indian cinema has genuine reasons to be proud: with an output of more than 1000 features per year it’s the world’s most prolific film industry. It has its own megastars and landmark directors. It's created memorable song and dance extravaganzas and brought forth a wave of new innovative directors. But now, as all the partying over 100 years of cinema begins to wind down, there are sober challenges to be faced if Indian cinema is truly to flourish in the future. Many in the industry think what really needs to happen is for Bollywood to get real and lessen its emphasis on fantasy. Keeping it real Akshat Verma, who’s based in Los Angeles and Mumbai, took the step of bringing authenticity to his country’s cinema when he wrote the screenplay for a more ‘real’ Indian film called Delhi Belly, which became a major hit two years ago. It’s an irreverent crime caper – replete with lavatory humour – and Verma wrote it because he wanted to see more relatable characters on screen. In some ways his screenplay was a reaction against the artificiality of Bollywood. Verma says: “My biggest problem growing up watching a lot of Indian films was I saw characters in situations I did not relate to.” So with Delhi Belly he put together a story which really resonated for him personally. “My desire was to try and write characters which were some of the people I’d known, friends I’d had who spoke a certain way, who had a rudeness or irreverence to the way they approached the world, a certain dark humour. I believe we tend to be polite in a lot of ways in the stories we tell,” he says. Proponents of change don’t just want more relatable real characters in Indian movies. They also want cinema to take on contentious topical issues - and they would like to see intimacy presented more freely on screen. The new movie Bombay Talkies, an anthology of four short films designed to mark 100 years of Indian cinema, features a gay kiss – something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. But even with change afoot, Bollywood remains quite conservative – it wasn’t so long ago that kissing between a man and woman was banned from the screen. Respected film and theatre director Feroz Abbas Khan says: “The mainstream cinema does a very fine job of sharing its fantasies, but there’s a cinema that needs to share its concerns of what’s happening in the society. There seems to be some very important issues that the country actually is grappling with, and those issues are not being discussed, or that conversation is not taking place in the film.” It’s true that many pressing issues in India – from religious intolerance to sexual violence against women – are routinely overlooked by mainstream Hindi cinema.