Cinema and class

Marginalised classes are becoming further alienated in the society due to lack of material being produced for them.

Sher Khan March 01, 2012
Film as a revolutionary art form has for some time been at direct odds with the commercialisation of cinema, because it has put those on the margins in popular discourse. The decline of Pakistan’s local film industry has also coincided with changing economic structures in which the industry used to operate.

Cinema has since long been associated with projection of national identity. With the advent of globalisation, film has been used to project various group identities and has also changed the paradigm in which culture functions.

In the 1970s, Indian actor Amitabh Bachan had come to represent the quintessential anti-hero in Indian cinema. His films would sell out for weeks at a time as he would have a following that represented the marginalised classes. Through the advent of global cinema, such films are rarely seen due to the creation of the consumable hero.

A professor at the State University of New York, Shakuntalo Rao, in her study of the globalisation of Indian cinema says:
“The new dream-world of Bollywood provides the space for the ‘consumable hero’ who is an icon of transnational capital, rampant consumption, and global modernity.”

The study shows that commercial cinemas depend greatly on commercially viable films and that this has created a social impasse that is defined by a growing alienation amongst social classes.

In Pakistan, the trend has been marred by a vicious debate between local producers and exhibitors and is similar to what has been seen in Africa and Argentina.

The debate centres around the rise of state-of-the-art multiplexes which are unwilling to play local films which are marred by the overall degeneration Punjabi and Urdu films.

The divide has been over access to capital to make films, using formulas that have proven to be commercially successful. As a result, local films in Pakistan are now being pushed to the periphery due to lack of investment, promotion and faltering standards.

The growing detachment and disconnect between classes and the overall dependence on the so-called ‘brand logic of transnational capital’, has meant that the marginalised classes are becoming further alienated in society due to the lack of relevant programming or material being produced for these classes.

As a result, film and art as vehicle for radical reform or change deeply suffers. The goal must be, thus, to ensure that the future of the industry grows without intensifying class divides.

Sher Khan
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.