Japan has produced some of the greatest filmmakers of the world. But the most well known Japanese filmmaker Kurosawa, is more Western than Japanese. Mizoguchi, Ozu and Naruse are much more Japanese in essence, than Kurosawa. Even in the Samurai genre Kobayashi is more rooted in Japan than Kurosawa. But the Western traits of Kurosawa’s work have made him more accessible to the audience outside of Japan. And thanks to that, the rest of the world knows about Ozu, Mizoguchi, Kobayashi and Naruse.
The same can be said about Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak. Ray’s popularity clearly lies in the fact that his body of work has definite roots in Classical Hollywood and Italian Neorealism, even though he is primarily working with Bengali literature. On the other hand Ghatak’s films are so deeply rooted in the socio-politics of post-independence Bengal, and the narrative style is so authentic to its local roots (melodrama in this case) that they become inscrutable and distant to the Western audience.
Two most important Russian film-makers from the post-modern era are Tarkovsky and Paradzhanov. Tarkovsky, by all means is beyond any comparison to any filmmaker from any era. But in the context of this topic a parallel can be drawn between Tarkovsky and his compatriot Paradzhanov. Both resisted Soviet interference in their films. Both the filmmakers’ created a visually stunning but highly demanding body of work. Their films can prove to be truly difficult for most audience. But where as Tarkovsky’s films are founded on the Western aesthetics and sensibilities of Russia, Paradzhanov’s films blossomed from the ancient cultural and traditional roots of Eastern principles. The widespread accordance to Tarkovsky’s canonical position and the unfortunate neglect of Paradzhanov may be attributed to this characteristic difference in their films.
Let’s look into Iranian cinema. It’s possibly safe to say that Majidi is more popular locally than Kiarostami, even though they both work with thoroughly Iranian subjects. Majidi’s films have a lyrical style based on his ethno-religious background, which hits the pulse closer home in Iran. But they fail to appeal to the Western sensibilities to a larger extent. Without the local context they seem to appear more melodramatic and less subtle. Kiarostami, in contrast, has been able to find a minimal, non-cathartic and neutral observant style, which breathes more profundity and poeticism in his films and almost always provide an open angle for contemplation and interpretation, which is principally a European ideology. Hence it is not difficult to understand Kiarostami’s high regards in contemporary Cinema, where as Majidi is greatly reduced in importance, even though his films thoroughly deserve much more attention.
The objective of modern Bengali cinema should therefore be to create a more Western and universal expression. The storytelling should become more open and subjective. We must at all cost avoid rigid, definite storytelling and let the audience have a chance to interpret the films. And we must stop making locally exclusive films. Even though we should make films on local subjects they must always be relevant to the rest of the world.