Big stars don’t take a stand simply because the bigger you are the more vulnerable you become,” said actor Swara Bhaskar, at the Indian Language Festival Samanvay in Delhi, on Sunday at the India Habitat Centre. A festival attendee had asked why actors in India do not take a stand on certain political issues. She gave examples of how Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan were derided for their comments on intolerance.
The annual, three-day festival that ended on Monday covered a gamut of talks by leading experts including Urvashi Bhutalia, founder of the feminist publishing house Zubaan, human right activist Bela Bhatia, and author of Hindi Nationalism Alok Rai. At her talk, Bhaskar spoke of the change in the content of Indian films, the need for parallel cinema, and how regional languages are making space for themselves in the mainstream.
“If actors want longevity in this industry then we have to make space for ourselves in commercial cinema. Because, the audience is there,” said Bhaskar. She attributed the change in content to the awareness of viewers, and their interactions with the makers on social media platforms. “With Twitter, everyone is a film critic,” said Bhaskar, explaining that such social media interactions affect the box-office earnings of even a big commercial film.
Discussing the importance of institutions like National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC) that have supported parallel cinema, she said that today also good cinema is being made by independent makers. Bhaskar spoke of the need of a parallel distribution system for non-commercial film.
During her talk, Bhaskar also spoke of how filmmakers are now consciously presenting their culture, taking away the need to be universal, and how gender-sensitive films, Pink being an example, are now trending. Attempts at caste representation and bridging the pay gap between male and female actors will need work, she said.