A latecomer in the British Film Institute’s Century of Cinema series, “And the Show Goes On — Indian Chapter” is one of the weaker national entries. An hour format is undoubtedly much too short to cover the vast and fascinating history of Indian cinema (800 feature films produced a year and exports to half the world, particularly to developing countries.) But pic gives the impression that Bengali director Mrinal Sen, chosen to direct the project, didn’t find a viewpoint for his topic, and ended up opting for a quick expressionist sketch in place of structured research. Though pic is likely to air anyway, it leaves a gap in the series regarding Indian cinema.
To be fair, the print screened at Venice has every appearance of a work-in-progress, lacking subtitles for dialogue in the film clips and sans names of the principal speakers. However, even identifying the films that are excerpted will not help the beginner much. Very different pictures widely separated in time, place, theme and culture have been edited back-to-back. The only connecting material is provided by briefinterviews with local film scholars and directors.
The overall impression, is, indeed, that Indian cinema is vast and varied, ranging from Satyajit Ray’s 1955 classic “Pather Panchali” to the box office hit “Coolie” starring Amitabh Bachchan (excerpted from a badly scratched print.) Sen shows a preference for close ups of intense faces expressing every kind of human tragedy. Beyond that, anyone curious about the country’s filmmaking had better plan a trip to the next Indian Film Festival.