It's only when O, her eyes half-shut asked, "So is there anything at all that you like about Indian cinema?", did I realize that Teja and I had been ranting about what one of our seniors, KS, from the Film Institute calls the "Bandra school of film-making".
I immediately said, "Oh but, I grew up on Hindi films, and I still need my weekly fix of them." To cover my embarrassment I asked her, "And you, what do you think about it all?" She said, "Well, I see everything I can, and I like it all, from 'Devdas' to 'Mr. and Mrs. Iyer' to 'Kabhi Alvida na Kehna'. And I cannot be objective about it, even if I know what's good and bad, because it's all so different to me, so exotic. In fact, it's French cinema that I am fed up of."
I guess that's true of us as well. I'm ready to accept almost any kind of narrative form, pace, technical finesse, in a foreign film, but am much more critical when it comes to Indian films. Even when she asked, "Which are the films that have influenced you the most?", the names that come most easily to mind are the films of foreign directors, Fellini, Ozu, Truffaut, Zhang Yimou, etc, etc. But I suspect that is only a pat answer.
In truth, I am more influenced by the films that I've seen the most, and those that I do love, from Guru Dutt, V Shantaram, Bimal Roy,K Asif, Manmohan Desai, even at times David Dhawan. I like the films made by Sunil Dutt, Manoj Kumar, Chetan Anand, Vijay Anand, Nassir Husain, Mehmood, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Shakti Samanta, BR Chopra. I don't instantly like Karan Johar's work, but I've watched 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai' and 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam' several times on TV, and I do love watching his TV show. The same goes for Sanjay Bhansali's 'Devdas' and 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam', even though I hate his retrogressive chauvinism. I liked Farhan Akhtar's 'Dil Chahta Hai' and his 'Don' with all it's glaring mistakes, more than the original one.
I love the old Muslim socials like 'Mere Mehboob', the mad hatter films like 'Padosan', 'Tere Ghar ke Saamne' and 'Chupke Chupke', and even some of the early Jeetendra films like 'Farz'.
And I am not even talking about Ray and Ghatak and some of Mrinal Sen, and Mani Kaul, and even some of the old Marathi black and white films I used to watch on Saturday evening Doordarshan, including some old Dada Kondke films.
This list-making could go on for another year, by which time I'll have seen many more films. Makes me wonder how much of my life I have actually spent watching films, as compared to doing other things.