Films And Web-Series: How To Find And Demand Positivity In A Field Of Propaganda, In A Year Of Pandemic

by Sumati Mehrishi - Dec 23, 2020 01:37 PM +05:30 IST
Films And Web-Series: How To Find And Demand Positivity In A Field Of Propaganda, In A Year Of PandemicOnline streaming content has become quite toxic of late.
  • Calling out negative content isn't enough. Viewers must do their bit to search for, identify, and demand positive material.

Earlier this year, Manish Mundra, an Indian producer, made posts on Twitter on Kaamyaab, a film featuring veteran actor Sanjay Mishra. The film is about an actor who puts everything in him together, at 63, to play the 500th role — so that he rounds off his long career with a memorable and substantial one — unlike the forgettable 499 previous ones.

I watched this powerful film between tears and laughter, keeping aside several worries and uncertainties related to the spread of Covid-19 around us. In parts, Mishra's work makes one nostalgic for theatre actors in commercial films.

The film is what positivity looks on screen, in cutting through despair, anguish, and in the tireless willingness to do and live.

In September, in a series of positive, independent films, I watched a short film, which shows children using a lesson from the Ramayana to protect a friend's mother from a sexual predator.

Humour and heroism in storytelling meet on a common ground of a serious subject. Positive.

The year 2020 is about to end. Its fortuitous child, Covid-19, emerged as a divisive figure, making us realise more than ever that the wall separating the 'positive' and 'negative' is of a sense of relief.

The Negative, myopic, and judgmental

Among other eyeball gaining trends in Hindi films/web series this year, one was of regions being represented by cuss words. Sexist cuss words. Regressive cuss words.

The web has given films and series ample shades of the negative this year. Mostly stuff that will keep you blank, or awake, not help you sleep baggage-less.

The discerning lot has noticed it.

Last month, Danji Thotapalli, Chief Curator at Indica Pictures, told this author how celebrating positivity is important to carve out the genre of Indic films.

He says, "Unfortunately, the streaming platforms are dominated by mediocre content that is negative, myopic, and judgmental. Most content comes from an ecosystem that is very agenda-driven."

How does (giving) too much attention to negativity impact the narrative on positivity? Thotapalli says: "Negativity generates fear. While capturing hard realities of the world is important, not providing a positive ending to the story, only ends up tormenting the viewer. It drains a person’s emotional well-being. Gritty and dark doesn’t mean negative!"

The Indic Film Utsav, put together by Thotapalli and the team, had close to 20,000 registrations and 13,000 viewers. "All this was accomplished in a very short runway of 13 weeks. We are probably one of those handful of film festivals worldwide that were built with an online backbone from concept to completion."

The films and the festival were "beaming into the living rooms of people". This made them realise that they needed to stay with family-oriented content.

He adds, "The film that won the Best Feature Film at our festival — Gamak Ghar — is a great example of a simple but compelling film that does not judge. Happy to say that we now have a new genre of films called the Indic genre."

Where to look for positive and positivity?

"We don’t need to search far and wide for films with positivity. Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s films are a great example of positive films. So are films made by K. Vishwanath (Sankarabharanam). We just need filmmakers with the ability to make simple but compelling films. There is no need to stick to a social message all the time," he adds.

This year, people in the audience are calling out content for negatives or negativity.

Content is negative when it doesn't celebrate people or regions, if it does, it ridicules the other, or 'others' the other. It grins at indigenous values, Indic history, icons, beliefs, culture.

It churns fear to instill fear. At times, it is revolting.

It is not experimental in using negativity as a tool. It is not interested in telling a story. It sabotages a story. Context is not its premise. Agenda is. Telling or retelling is not its purpose.

Toss Up The Gold

We need to first deal with, defeat and crush the fallacy that quality work that involves the arts doesn't attract the masses who feel for dharma, the dharmic, nation, Indic values, civilisation and allied concerns.

Good quality work, when involving art, collaboration and a multidisciplinary approach in good and original content needs to be encouraged and discussed and appreciated by the 'cultural Right' in a detached manner.

Positivity is not a low hanging fruit. It demands more effort to think and deliver a composition that stays in people's collective memory. Demand it. Support it.

Let’s stop visualising bath tubs as oceans. The only cure, need, method for countering negative and negativity, is not erecting an edifice for negativity in the process of collecting its evidence, alone. It is to create and propel positive and positivity.

Sumati Mehrishi is Senior Editor, Swarajya. She tweets at @sumati_mehrishi 

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