Indian popular cinema came in for praise while English writers in the country received a dose of criticism from well-known author and Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul.
The author, who is of Indian origin, was talking to a New Delhi audience on Friday at the India Today Conclave, where he said films made in the country were more interesting than Hollywood cinema.
If that brought cheer among Indian film aficionados in the audience, Naipaul's acerbic comments on writers in English triggered off some soul-searching.
Media reports quoting Naipaul said Indian writing was torn between the necessity to reflect local realities and the desire to be accepted globally. In the process, the writing veered towards being exotic, he said.
In all, around 800 films are made in India every year in different languages, while in recent times Indian authors in English like Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy have received international recognition.
"To write for a home audience is to write for an audience you know. To write for a foreign audience is to be tempted and cursed by the editor to be descriptive," the India Abroad News Agency reported Naipaul as having said.
On the contrary, Indian cinema drew out the essence of the country's creative genius, he said. It was in this context that the 72-year-old Naipaul remarked that "Bollywood (as the Mumbai film industry is popularly called) was more interesting than Hollywood".
"To write for a home audience is to write for an audience you know. To write for a foreign audience is to be tempted and cursed by the editor to be descriptive"
Compared to the neo-colonial flavour of literature, Indian cinema encapsulates the creative genius of the country. "Indian cinema is constantly evolving. It is where India has found itself," Naipaul said.
Naipaul shot to fame in the 1960s with his books India: A Wounded Civilisation and An Area of Darkness. These were followed by two much-talked about books, a genre of travel essays – Among the Believers and Beyond Belief.
He published his latest book Magic Seeds, which he has said would be his last.
The two-day conclave organised by the country's leading news weekly India Today is being attended among others by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and US Senator and former US First Lady Hillary Clinton besides Naipaul, Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan and chairman of the Mittal steel empire, Lakshmi Niwas Mittal.