Friday, August 18, 2006

Digital Future of Malayalam Cinema

Mollywood's digital future

The first digital film in Malayalam is to be released this week. ‘Moonnamothoral’ by V K Prakash will be released in 80 theatres in Kerala through digital network.

This is indeed a welcome sign and could turn out to be a revolutionary moment for an industry like Malayalam cinema which has long been bound by low economies of scale that is not able to cater to a viewership that is fast getting globalised in its tastes as well as expectations. Both these trends have limited its scope for larger productions, experimentation and global marketing. Stagnant state in which it has been forced to vegetate during the post-globalisation period is reflected in the deep conservatism that runs through its themes, production values, methods, and technology. As a result it has been virtually taken over by exhibitors and distributors who virtually runt he show and dictate terms to the producers and directors. Being at the final and receiving end of the production chain, their values and dictates are determined by the demand side alone – something that is deeply inimical to innovativeness and change.

It is no coincidence that the ‘stars’ of cinema are averse to the very idea of digital cinema. For, its spread could spell the doom of many an establishments which feed upon the status quo On hopes that the switch over to digital cinema would liberate Malayalam cinema from the clutches of these conservative forces and become instrumental in releasing new energies and talents.. Digital cinema, because of its affordability and the scope for experimentation it gives, could give rise to the entry of new talents, who would dare to experiment with new themes and methods. If it were to happen so, no one can prevent the anti-establishment potential of this technology. The present level of production costs could be lowered like never before, and the possibilities of imaging technology can be used to narrate and visualize hitherto untold stories.

Digital technology is nothing new to cinema. It first entered cinema in the form of special effects and in the field of sound. Digital cinema gave a fresh depth and dimension to cinema. Now digital technology has entered the fields of production, distribution and exhibition too. Now cinema can be made and shown without a camera and a conventional film projector. Now cinema can be made without it even depending upon object-reality. Anything that can be thought of and dreamt about can be digitized into visuals. So the interface of digital cinema is not with reality but with dreams and images. Hope Malayalam cinema will live up to its potential and find a new and great lease of life unleashing the potential of our young filmmakers, who have long been forced to remain mere consumers of global images.


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