Riveting dialogues on the ever-changing landscape of Indian cinema, fascinating discourses on new-age OTT platforms, and regional cinema taking the lead, all this and more dominated the first two days of Arth – A Culture Fest taking place at the beautiful grounds of New Delhi’s Sunder Nursery.
On Day 1 of the festival, 24 February 2024, audiences witnessed film-maker Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri in a riveting session on ‘The Changing Landscape of Indian Cinema’. Commenting on the revival of regional cinema, he said, “I believe regional cinema in the country is doing a brilliant job. These films are rooted to Indian traditions and understand the core of common man’s life. I also feel films should be made with the objective of educating and not just entertainment. That is why we are making films like The Vaccine War for people to go and watch with their families and children.”
In another dynamic session titled ‘Is Bollywood staring at an existential crisis?’ held on the same day, prominent faces like Anant Vijay, Abhijit Iyer Mitra (moderator), Mayank Shekhar, Sahana Singh, Shefali Vaidya, and Vani Tripathi Tikoo from the industry came together and discussed how Indian cinema isn’t just limited to Bollywood and how language is no longer a barrier when it comes to storytelling. Their comments on how expression and consumption of content has changed after the pandemic and the advent of OTT platforms has led to democratisation of content were some of the key takeaways from the session.
Day 2 of Arth – A Culture Fest kicked off on 25 February 2023 with an insightful session on why young voices matter and what it means to be a young voter where Indian politician Tejasvi Surya said, “The last 8-9 years, especially after 2014, we have seen two very important areas being very positively transformed: India’s polity and economic sphere, both of which have undergone real democratisation. I have seen a large number of young people participating with political enthusiasm and activism from panchayats to the parliament level. They are taking active interest in electoral politics, and this shows great deepening and democratisation of political space. People see hope in the Prime Minister’s vision and government is very much cognizant of creating opportunities for youth of India.”
Award-winning journalist Barkha Dutt talked about how India managed its covid crisis. She said, “We can safely say that during the pandemic, every country, including India, has had its challenges unique to them. Every country faltered and learned from every wave. We were also groping and fumbling in the dark and it was like on-the-job training. In times of crisis, as a journalist we shouldn’t turn for or against the government. It was a global pandemic and it affected everyone equally.”
She also added, “The world’s biggest awards are perceived to be located in the west. We need to recognise awards that emerge from our own country.”
The crowd were thrilled to witness supremely talented actor Pankaj Tripathi on stage where where he spoke about his upcoming ‘Main Atal Hoon’. “During the first look test for the film ‘Main Atal Hoon’, I was extremely surprised when I first witnessed myself in the look of Atal Ji. The first half reading of the script gave me brilliant insights about him and I believe his extraordinary journey needs to be shared with the masses. This movie will specially allow the youth of the nation to witness his journey and his struggles. It is a huge responsibility on my shoulders to portray him.”
He also said, “I think we learn from all our experiences. Just like this festival Arth, the cultural programs, the panel discussions, different artforms, all these are a great opportunity for each of us to learn something new. Such festivals help us develop our personalities and they play a vital role in whatever I am today.”
The day culminated with two enthralling performances by Sangeet Samragini Padma Bhushan Begum Parween Sultana who performed Hindustani vocals in her mesmerizing voice, and Indian playback singer Javed Ali who sang soulful Sufi numbers.
Disclaimer Note: All quotes have been excerpted from the panel discussions held at Arth – A Culture Fest on 24th and 25th February 2023 in New Delhi and translated from Hindi to English.