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IFFI PANEL DISCUSSION PART 2 – Does Technology Kill Good Cinema and Sensitivity?

Does technology kill good cinema and sensitivity? Films like Ra.One and Krrish3 were lambasted by the critics while making good run in the box office, whereas the few 3D films made in India in the last three years saw markedly poor attendance. Today, with the play of technology in every sphere of life, even in small towns across India with kids flaunting latest smartphones, technology has already shaped public life beyond recognition. That means almost none can imagine life without cellphones, internet, digital cameras, satellite TV anymore. As the public imagination is shaped by this great connectivity and digital fantasy, cinema tries to enrich that more through an overdose of hyper-futuristic imagery, multiplanar sound and a mishmash of live motion put on animated characters in completely computer-generated locations.

At the IFFI panel discussion, film critic M K Raghavendra opened the talk organized by the Film Critics Circle of India (FCCI) to answer this question. He noted that the British magazine Sight and Sound’s best films’ list still had Kubrick’s 1968 futuristic masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey as the latest entry. That says a lot about the onslaught of technology affecting media and public life. In the last forty-six years nobody made a film with a similarly profound influence on how we think, despite the revolutionary changes in technology.  There is no doubt that cinema has improved. From silence to sound, color, 3D, now even characters are made in machine (the tiger in Life of Pi, for example). Yet nobody can imagine Citizen Kane in colour, or Vertigo in 3D.

Film critic Rashmi Doraiswamy quoted Walter Benjamin, the Frankfurt school culture studies scholar, that today’s media consumption is not about the original and the spontaneously creative. Today films are shot and edited non-linearly; even a piece of music is recorded non-continuously, with stops between each line of singing. Original is no more relevant in this synthetic culture of packaged entertainment. She hinted at the fact that reality and technology both are fragmented to today’s connected generation, influencing each other. However, she said, there are great sides to technology coming to the help of cinema too. With cheaper, portable cameras, sound recording systems and editing machines, more people can try telling visual stories.

Film critic Ashok Rane upheld the story and the storytelling above everything. In an industry where the producers want to use magic technologies without even thinking about story, plot or characters, technology is doing more harm than benefit. There is a growing tendency where even low budget films try to use chroma and multi-point tracking, most of the time in pathetic ways.

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Technology by itself does not necessarily make good cinema. “In the olden days of filmmaking, one needed to be mathematically precise to be a cinematographer. Today, a lot of youth get away with loads of utter rubbish with post production. On the other hand, back in the pioneering days of cinema, Chaplin’s mastery over special effects was so perfect that even to today’s audience, his films look documentarily real,” said Dalton L, film critic, and FCCI secretary.

The talk wound up on the priorities of showing human emotions and interactions on screen, in today’s ever-changing, postmodern world.

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