History is an interesting subject for cinema. It has stories to tell, and more importantly lessons to teach. While Chinese resort to their martial art and wartime dramas, Japanese make jidaigekis, Russians are known for their working class films, and Americans with very little history to tell, still fall back to their cowboy westerns and political dramas, it is rather unfortunate, that India despite of its thousands of years of rich history, vastly fails to replicate it in cinema.
The first reaction I had after watching Iron Lady (Phyllida Lloyd, 2011) was when will we Indians make a similar film on our political leaders. Making a cinema on historic events is a tedious task. It needs exhaustive research and a certain amount of free thinking and boldness. Considering the diversity and complexity of the country’s identity, the difficulty in the process is obvious. When Chandraprakash Dwivedi came up with his well researched television show Chanakya for Doordarshan, he was opposed with great political resistance and could air the show only for one season. With art being constrained by narrow mindsets, it is but obvious that the film-making community seems to have lost all connection with the country and is extremely indifferent towards such topics. Such is the indifference and resistance that a foreigner had to come and make a film with a foreign actor on Gandhi.
The available history of India can be dated back to the Indus Valley Civilization, post which, we have accounts of numerous emperors, court-men, artists, scientists and rebels – whose stories must be told through cinema. Except a few fine examples like Bose- the forgotten Hero (Shyam Benegal, 2005) and Jodha Akbar (Ashutosh Gowariker, 2008), there have rarely been any attempts to do so in the recent times. Unfortunately, modern Indian film-makers seem to have forgotten that the country resides even outside the metropolitan cities. Rarely do we see cinema based on small towns, leave alone the villages. With cinema becoming opaque to its culture and people, films based on their identity seems to be a distant dream.