Who says documentaries are not for the Indian audience?
It is a know fact that our audience do not consume as many art house films as much as commercial films. We can’t really deny it because commercial success and critical acclaim have always been two different things that rarely, if not never, coexist. So, is there no way out for the filmmaker in you, waiting to showcase the real issues of the world?
Do not fret, you have quasi documentaries to your rescue.
It’s easy to confuse quasi documentaries with docudramas, so let me try and make it easy for all of us.
A docudrama is a film that is inspired by a real -life incident and then dramatized from scratch. Films like Visaranai would classify under docudramas as they try to fictionalise a true event, using actors and narratives. We wouldn’t even know that it is based on a true story, if not explicitly mentioned in the story.
A quasi- documentary, on the other hand, as its name suggests, is almost a documentary. Only, it is more interesting, engaging and as a perfect cross of commercial and art house films, is emerging to become popular among the Indian audience.
Primarily, quasi documentaries contain one or several elements of truth in the form of short clippings, audios, interviews, anything that would qualify as real and capturable. They then proceed to act out the rest of the story or incident using other storytelling devices.
Hip Hop Adi’s Takaru Takuru would be a great example of a quasi -documentary with a significant reach. Although much shorter in duration than any average quasi-documentary, it makes use of all the elements of a quasi-documentary.
There’s an attractive protagonist, an action sequence, dialogues that slightly stir up some jingoism and engaging music set to catchy lyrics to lure the audience. And once the audience is hooked, the real purpose of the supposed music video hits us. With a heightened sense of concentration, we begin to grasp the information that’s given to us. We no longer need adornments to keep us hooked, because they’ve already done their job.
It would not be wrong to say that the video was instrumental in gathering momentum for the Jalikkattu protests. It was easier for people to understand what was going on, because somewhere in the back of their heads, they would have already listened to the concept of the Jalikattu ban’s contribution to the artificial insemination industry, and the consequential destruction of their native breeds.
This is not to say that all the protesters were completely informed on the issue, but to bring to make a point that the video, a commendable cross between fact and fiction, simplified the issue into layman terms, which is not usually the case with documentaries, that are reserved for the elite.
Another interesting quasi documentary that I came across was The Investigator, a British crime series.
The first season deals with the murder of Carole Packman, whose body has not been found, even 30 years after her murder, and continues to affect the lives of many of those involved and the investigator/host tries to uncover the shocking tale of murder, fraud, deceit and lies that has left family members desperate for answers.
The reason this series aught my interest was because it combined both fact and fictional reconstruction in order to engage and make the audience make better sense of the case. Carole Packman’s murder was real, the interviews with her daughter and extended family were real. At the same time, with the due disclaimers, actors were used to complete the story and fill in the gaps left by the characters that were either dead, missing, or imprisoned by that time.
Having watched series like Channel V’s Gumrah-the end of Innocence which was a complete fictional reconstruction of Indian crime stories, I found The Investigator to be more believable, owing to the elements of truth that it contained.
So, the next time you think of giving documentaries a miss because you the audience are too dumb for it, think again. There’s always a middle ground, like quasi-documentaries for instance.