'Cinema is both art and industry'
P Govinda Pillai is the chairman of the Kerala State Film Development Corporation, KSFDC, which was constituted on the lines of the NFDC (National Film Development Corporation).
He has not enjoyed mainstream participation in Malayalam cinema for several years now.
His, we thought, would be an objective view: "Malayalam cinema is going through a crisis," he says.
He also said that the KSFDC wanted to encourage film societies to be formed in small towns and villages as well as organise festivals.
KSFDC aims for is one film society per village. That makes 1,000 film societies in Kerala. Now, Kerala has 250 film societies to cater to the people who live in the villages. Also on the KSFDC agenda is the 'silver screen project', through which it plans to have small theatres to show different and meaningful films.
Over to Pillai:
Cinema is both an art and an industry.
As an industry, Malayalam cinema is immersed in a deep crisis now. A very deep crisis.
One which has affected the entire film industry, not only in India but abroad, too. Malayalam cinema, I think, it is the worst hit.
There are a number of reasons: Kerala is the most film conscious state in India.
More Malayalees go to see films than any other section of people in India.
In India, there are around 14,000 odd theatres that exhibit films. Of which almost 10 per cent is in Kerala -- which estimates it at 1,350. Almost 800 of these are in the villages of Kerala.
On the other hand, in Bengal, there are 800 theatres and their population is double that of the Malayalees. Of these 800, almost 250 are in Calcutta alone.
In production, the average All India production of feature films is 800 to 900. Of which, 10 per cent, even 12, were produced in Kerala. There were years when 130-150 Malayalam films were produced. That means almost 12 per cent of the films are made in a language spoken by only four per cent of the Indian population.
The growth of the Malayalam film industry is related to modernisation, urbanisation and spread of literacy and high education. Films are one of the major means of spending the leisure time of the Malayalees. Barring the metros in India, television viewers are much more in Kerala than in any other place in India.
Almost Rs 2,000 crores are invested in the film industry in Kerala. There are 80,000 people working in this industry as part time and full time employees. It is a major industry.
One of the major incomes for the panchayats is from entertainment tax. So, this industry has become a part of our public finance.
This industry, which has made 130 films in a year in the late Eighties, is coming down step-by-step. In 2000, only 60 films were made.
That is a crisis situation.
Many theatres have since closed down. They have now been converted to kalyana mandapams (marriage halls) and shopping complexes.
This will be a major problem for Keralites. How will they spend their leisure time?
In Trivandrum and its suburbs alone, there are some 30 theatres. If they are closed down, tens of thousands of people will be roaming about after their office hours, before their office hours...
The same is the case with students, too. When they roam about in the city, drug cases, criminal cases, petty thievery, etc, will increase.
The police reports say that when theaters were closed down for 14 days in Alleppey due to some strike, the largest number of criminal cases, drug trafficking, clashes, etc, were recorded.
So the closure of theatres will have grave social implications.
Television has also contributed a great deal to the crisis -- in luring the people away from the theatres.
The answer is too long to elaborate here. More pertinently, should cinema be saved at all? Let television entertain them.
Stars dominate the film industry. If you produce a film for Rs 60 lakhs and if you have a top star acting in it, almost Rs 30 lakhs have to be spent on the star. Is it not an extremely distorted picture?
This is an industry where one factor is taking up the largest proportion of the expenses. It is a very unhealthy industry.
But Malayalees don't worship stars like they do in some other states.
Fortunately, in the last couple of years, medium films with not many top stars and some sort of message in them have been collecting more than the high budget films with top stars in them.
For example, a film like Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala (directed and acted by Srinivasan) did not have any stars in it. But it was one of the most successful films.
Another film which did very well without any stars was Vasanthiyum Lakshmiyum Pinne Jnanum, starring Kalabhavan Mani as a blind singer. He won a special jury award at the National Award for acting.
So changes are taking place albeit slowly.
Stars are not solely responsible for the crisis. Though they have contributed to it.
Most commercial films of the Sixties, for example, were based on the literary works of great writers. Now, stories are written with stars in mind. And written by substandard people.
That has affected the quality of Malayalam films on the whole. This is one of the important reasons why the standard has deteriorated.
Also, the taste in a highly commercial art like films is really manufactured.
Do we have a single serious Malayalam journal which seriously discusses cinema? No.
So how can we have a new generation with good taste?
When Shaji N Karun opined that the society has become consumerist and that is the reason why no one appreciates good art, he was absolutely right.
The Sixties and the Seventies were the best period in Malayalam cinema.
That was the time Thoppil Bhasi's famous plays were made into films. They were based on the stories of Thakazhi, MT Vasudevan Nair, Pottekad, etc.
I am not talking about 'high class' directors like Adoor Gopalakrishnan or Aravnidan or P A Becker or P N Menon, I am talking about the other directors.
The commercial ventures of those days had good story and strong characters, and most of the scriptwriters were good playwrights or novelists.
Violence and sex have always been part of our lives. But they are shown in such an unnatural way that you abhor them.
There is no realism at all in today's films. They are only a celebration of violence.
God's own films!
'Malayalam cinema is definitely growing'
'Pain drives all great creations'
'It's the filmmaker's duty to entertain people'
'The films I consider bad win awards!'
'I love the films of the '60s and the '70s'
'Today we have only copycats'
'You don't see emotion these days'
'We have a long way to go'