Kolkata: Veteran actress Sharmila Tagore says the divide between what is perceived as national and regional cinemas is "melting away".
"I think this kind of linguistic divide is melting away. To a film lover, this is no longer a factor. I think this kind of category is dissipating. So it is transcending... you can't think of a nation as a singular term anymore. It is a hybrid plural entity which is also constantly talking to other cultures," Sharmila said.
She was speaking at a discussion on the 60th anniversary of Satyajit Ray's "Pather Panchali".
Sharmila, who was introduced by Ray at the tender age of 13 in "Apur Sansar" in 1959 and subsequently became a leading lady of Hindi films in the 1960s and 1970s, attributed the popularity of Hindi films to the push from the government and because of Bollywood films.
Echoing her, filmmaker Shoojit Sircar, who delivered the hit "Piku", said he never felt there was a "barrier" between national and regional cinema.
But on the other hand, filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh of "Kahaani" and "Ahalya" fame spoke about the clear differences between national and regional cinema.
"The biggest challenge that regional cinema has is we don't have enough money, and rightfully so because we don't have ways to recover it," Ghosh said, adding that he believes regional cinema can "crossover" and find audiences outside the intended ones.
Contributing to the discussion, actress and director Nandita Das said "economics is interfering in arts so much".
"My better works are in films that many people haven't seen. That's the choice I have made. Either I can do films (say in Hindi) and probably compromise on the work I want to do or do films that less people see and take solace in the fact that once archived they will stay forever," Nandita said.
Another factor that limits the reach and marketing of regional and small budget independent films is the unwillingness of producers to back such projects, lamented filmmaker Aparna Sen.
"Your producer needs to believe in the product," Aparna said.
Aparna also highlighted the distinct rural and urban divide in viewership.
While Sircar said directors have to handle the reach-out of a regional film entirely, Sharmila felt "a producer is as important as a director".
Vouching for regional cinema, Dibakar Banerjee, who has "Khosla Ka Ghosla" and "Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!" to his credit, asserted that regional cinema has "much larger chance in standing up as human documents than homogenised Bollywood movie".