Understanding Cinema

What is a movie? We can define the term in several ways, but what is the actual operation and definition of a movie? Is it art? Or a Craft? To understand what it is, you need to have a perception of what ‘craft’ means and how it is different from ‘art’. A craft is an activity to create something. Many activities go behind the screen of a film, and all these activities are unhesitantly called crafts and the people who perform these activities are craftsmen. So is the film a craft? No! But filmmaking is a craft! Cinema is an art. This piece of art is made by various craftsmen combining their crafts such as direction, cinematography, music, sound, colour and various other aspects.

Cinema, the prodigal son of multiple arts

Now let’s strip down this art called movie to understand it in the right way. But before we do that, why did I use the term ‘right way’? Is there a wrong way? Yes, there is! The way we understand films impact a lot on what we are taking from it. If we understand cinema as a ramp, then we start taking the beauty of those ramp walking models, here actors. Somewhere we have lost our perception and movies have become nothing more than ramps. We have started watching movies to look at these sparkling actors. We have begun praying them, watching their films and defending their crappy works because we like them. Fanaticism is not our concern, though. So let us not worry about the wrong understandings of a film and dive into the proper way.

The Expression

Any art is an expression, and the artists are expressers. What they express is an artistic choice. But the purpose of art’s existence is to express something. Let us assume this expressing subject as ‘information’. Because no matter what the expresser (artist) chooses to communicate through their art, it conveys some information to the viewer. The entire purpose of a movie too is to speak something; to express some information to the viewer. Regardless of what that information is, every movie does talk about something. Like their ancestor, the painting, even a movie is visual art. It does speak something and its medium to communicate is visual. 

Cinema has the attributes of almost all the art forms. It is a visual art like paintings; has sound and music, and has characters, actions and spectacle like stage plays. They are the hybrid form of art, and it takes all of those artists to make it work. Sometimes when you hear certain music, it impacts you. It reaches your brain and triggers certain emotions. Music and sound are auditory art where they tell you something too. Some music has lyrics to say to you directly, and some music talks to you through its tune and instruments. Similarly, characters speak a lot of things through their dialogue and sometimes with their expressions. But when you dig into the actual lineage of cinema, you will understand that its heritage comes from paintings more than any other art. They are called movies for a reason. And that is, moving pictures!

person holding camera film
Photo by Luriko Yamaguchi on Pexels.com

The stripping down of cinema

When you strip down a movie, that is simplifying it. You can call a film as a collage of multiple video clips arranged in a particular order to tell a specific story. And if you strip that clip to its toes, a video is a bunch of photos taken at a certain speed and animated later. So all movie is just a bunch of pictures! Let us call these photos as frames! Because that is what a movie is. It has 24 frames per second, meaning 24 photos clicked per second. When you compile these continuously clicked photos into a clip and organise all these clips to tell a story, you have a cinema!

Note to film enthusiasts and aspiring filmmakers!

Now telling a story, that is where the difference lies. How do you tell a story? In a movie, you have all the arts available to you. You have many different ways to tell a story. It is up to you to make sure that you don’t over-use any aspect and never use any other. That is what happens in many mainstream cinema. They over-use ‘dialogue’ by conveying all the information through the character’s dialogues. It is an easy way out because the character directly speaks out. But you have all the other arts to use. When we strip the film down, we understood that it is just a series of photographs. What a photo is a modern version of paintings. 

With the available technology, we can edit all the details in a picture and convey some story even through a single photo. Now in a film, you have several thousands of images, 24 per each second. How fair is it to convey all the information through dialogue and character’s actions? Why not become more artistic by choosing to share information visually. Why not use music to say something? Why not use light, colour, make-up, properties and every other aspect that appears on screen to tell the story? Do use dialogues and do use character’s action, but in a film use all the available crafts equally to convey information, and that is a story!

To know more about my opinions on films, refer to the article where I have written about Om Dar-B-Dar (1988) and Satantango (1994).

Everything wrong with Indian Mainstream Cinema

India is one of the largest film producing countries. India produces 1,500 to 2,000 movies per year, which is the larger than US and Canada. But why Indian movies are not regular nominees at the prestigious film awards, the Oscars? Because not quantity, but quality is what matters when it comes to art! India has 9 or so industries which produce films in their own regional languages. But yet it has always been a tough thing to get into Oscars. It’s simple. It’s trash!

100 years of cinema and yet somehow only a bunch of films which can be discussed, studied as a piece of art. It’s because of the rejection towards globalization and hatred towards change when it comes to culture or art. Cinema has become all about identity and nothing about art in India. Mainstream producers who have already bagged many riches have stopped or maybe never thought of cinema as an art but somehow made it into a business. The movie with more digits of profit is hailed as “India’s biggest motion picture”. I’ll discuss few major points which are going very wrong in the norms of filmmaking in India.

Crafts involved in Filmmaking:

24 crafts are involved in making a film! It is not that Indian mainstreams don’t use those crafts. In fact biggie films use all of the crafts with utter hard-work and dedication. There’s nothing going wrong in the labour being used to make a film. But the purpose of using such labour is entirely wrong! All the 24 crafts are to be used to tell a story or to be precise, to give an experience to the audience. Whereas here they are used only for “FAN SERVICE”. For example, there’s something called as ‘Vertigo Effect’ where the camera tracks in/out while the focal length of the frame is changed creating a distorted camera movement. It was first used by Alfred Hitchcock and since then many filmmakers are trying to use that Dolly-zoom in various scenes to convey a different meaning. But here, Dolly-zooms are used randomly with no purpose at all! I remember watching a South-Indian film where the effect is used just to elevate the lead character with a rising background music. The lead character had to be elevated so that his/her fans would whistle and enjoy watching their favorite star being praised.


It’s takes no Quantum Physics to understand the fact that Story is the soul of a film. I strongly believe that there’s no such thing called a bad story. There are stories which one might like or which one might not want to watch. It’s subjective. There’s no universal good and bad for the stories. But, the way the story is told matters! And again, here the stories are told in the worst way possible! There’s a film (which I won’t be naming) where the lead character is a businessman and visits a village to do some good and when baddies try to fight him, he suddenly behaves as if he’s hulk! Even the mightiest and the bulkiest baddies start flying and bouncing when the lead hits them. It’s nonsensical! Again! FAN SERVICE!

Celebrity making business:

Nepotism is not the only problem in not letting the real content appear. People who can afford to make a movie, started making movies to make themselves and their offspring a celebrity! Cinema has stopped to be productive, progressive and an experience to the audience! It has started to be ‘Easy Fame and Easy Money’ thing where people with no talent but lots of money do shit to gain fans!


Back then, Indian movies looked special with songs because songs were dreams, surreal fantasies which metaphorically explore the minds of characters. The lyrics spoke out the minds of characters. Sometimes, the songs progressed the story and enhanced the storytelling. But yet again, FAN SERVICE has overcome all those reasons and songs happened to be just showcase of actor’s flexible moves and hot bods they built all summer! Songs are placed in the movie very annoyingly that they are sometimes forceful and irritating to watch. I remember using these songs as breaks to go the washroom or buy some snacks. Irrespective of the story, the movie definitely has songs in most senseless parts of the story. There was another movie, where the male lead role narrates his sad flashback where his parents and his ex were killed by a mobster to female lead and his new love interest. Then the female lead starts smiling and hugging him which then cuts away to a random stage-like location where both the leads start dancing with extras in weird costumes! Like, what?

These movies are nothing but big screen Soap Operas!

We all know how Indian Soap Operas are! They are beyond the word TERRIBLE! They are worse than Mexican Telenovelas! TRUE! Everyone knows they are bullshit! But yet they don’t stop airing them on TV and housewives don’t stop watching them! Because they just watch TV to pass some time while doing their chores! They know that they won’t miss anything! They don’t even need to watch the screen to understand it. They’d be chopping vegetables or washing dishes where the soap operas would be running in the background! These movies have turned into them! Their sole purpose of existence is to glorify the actors, make the fans go gaga and shout like a bunch of baboons looking at their favorite actor (who never really acts). You can play these films in the background and do whatever chores you want. I played Clash Of Clans while watching many of these mainstream movies in India! And I could tell you whatever the story was! Visually they don’t progress a bit! The stories are all predictable from the very first frame. The first fifteen minutes of the film would be a song and irrelevant bullshit because even the makers don’t expect the audience to come early! The next 45 minutes would be 2 or 3 songs and few fights and few dialogues which no one would ever speak out in real life. I’m not blind, I do know that there are many films which stood out of conventions and broke the path of regular fan service. But they were heavily overshadowed by baboons who were not interested to watch them because their favorite actor didn’t dance, didn’t break anyone’s jaw, didn’t appear perfect and the story didn’t elevate and exaggerate his character more than a human can be. If you are disagreeing with me in this, you are either ignorant or that baboon who jumps and screeches looking at your favorite actor! You can simply spot a crappy movie by watching its trailer! Only way to get new content is to stop watching the shit content! Watch the trailers and be quick to judge if the movie is crap or not! It’s not hard these days! It’s only rare to find rare and unique content in trailers! Let’s not be baboons and let art be art! Let’s not worship the actors and make them feel godly. Actors should be the people who can actually act! Movies should be pieces of art which are actually an emotional experience rather than a banana in an ape’s mouth.

Yours frustrated,

Cinephile Pro!