By Utpal Borpujari
The National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) is changing. At least it is making an effort to change. The autonomous body under the Information & Broadcasting Ministry mandated to back the good cinema movement in India, which in the past has produced some India’s best cinema, had been facing tough times in recent years, but nonetheless, it has of late made valiant attempts to overcome the hurdles and give backing to some talented emerging filmmakers to make their first films, and also widen its vision to look at restoration of a large number of classics produced by it in the past and focus on script development. While the results are yet to come by, the credit for all this should go to the team at NFDC led by its managing director Nina Lath Gupta. Sitting at the NFDC stall at the sprawling Marche du Film (Film Market) of the recent 62nd Cannes Film Festival, Gupta shared with Deccan Herald’s Utpal Borpujari her vision on how to make NFDC live up to its full potential:
What’s new at NFDC?
We have quite a few interesting films that are ready or are in the process of completion. What is exciting is that quite a few of them are by first-time directors, who are working in languages in which NFDC is producing films for the first time ever. Among them are Haat by Seema Kapoor in Rajasthani, Ekhon Nedekha Nodir Xipaare (As the River Flows) by Bidyut Kotoky in Assamese, which will also have a Hindi version and Paltadacho Munis (The Man Beyond the Bridge) by Laxmikant Shetgaonkar in Konkani. Also coming up are Manjadikuru (Lucky Red Seeds) by Anjali Menon in Malayalam, Maya Bazaar by Joydeep Ghosh in Bengali, The White Elephant by Aijaz Khan in Hindi. We have also sometime back finished the making of Via Darjeeling by Arindam Nandy and Bioscope by K M Madhusudhanan in Malayalam/Tamil. Some other projects like Bubblegum are also coming up, while NFDC’s board has just approved Kissa by Anup Singh and Naye Joote by Charudutt Acharya.
How is NFDC trying to come out of difficult times?
NFDC had two main areas that needed attention. The first one, rationalization of manpower, has been achieved. Also, to better utilise our infrastructure, we are shifting our short film production centre and the entire subtitling facility to Chennai from Mumbai. We have closed Guwahati, Bangalore, Hyderabad offices as in today’s date, when you have access to Internet, one need not be present physically at all places. At the end of the day we are a corporate entity and filmmakers can always get in touch with us online – we have one person designated for that task.
What is the direction sought to be given to the Film Bazaar that NFDC is handling at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa?
We have done it for the last two years, and in that sense it is quite young. But the feedback has been very encouraging. Last year we tied up with the Bingar Film Lab of the UK for the Screenwriters Lab, and this year we have one more partner in the form of the Locarno Film Festival. We have identified script development as one of our goals for the next five years. It takes time for these things to fructify.
What has been the outcome of setting up stalls at markets like that at the Cannes festival?
We have also appreciably expanded our international buyer base in the last five years. We have been focusing on building up a buyers’ base for both our new and old films.
We are now in contact with far more sales agents than we were five years ago. Buyers around the world are increasingly looking for non-Bollywood fare from India. We have built new partnerships with UK Film Council, Austrian Film Commission, and also in Germany, Australia and France, apart from forging links with major international sales agents like Fortissimo Films and The Match Factory. The idea is to promote good Indian cinema across languages, and with the new languages in which we are producing films, our language count now stands at 18.
NFDC is also taking up an ambitious film restoration programme.
Yes, and we have started with restoration and digital re-mastering of Satyajit Ray’s Ghare Baire, Ganashatru and Agantuk, all produced by NFDC, and Aparajito, the second of the celebrated Apu Trilogy which we have acquired. NFDC is collaborating with Mumbai-based Pixion Studios for the project, which envisages restoration of 100 films in the next three years, including Kundan Shah’s Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, Ketan Mehta’s Mirch Masala, Shyam Benegal’s Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda and Samar, Sudhir Mishra’s Main Zinda Hoon and Dharavi, Govind Nihalani’s Party, Saeed Mirza’s Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro, Aparna Sen’s Sati and Tapan Sinha’s Wheel Chair. Many of these films are in really bad shape their restoration is an urgent necessity. We hope the National Film Archives of India too will lend its expertise to the project.