Utpal Borpujari

July 10, 2009

Our idea is to promote good Indian cinema: Nina Lath Gupta

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.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 09-07-2009)

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/12604/nfdc-has-taken-up-restoration.html

June 1, 2009

Indian govt should support independent films, not self-sustaining Bollywood: Paillard

By Utpal Borpujari

As the Executive Director of the Marche du Film of Festival de Cannes, the world’s biggest annual film market, Jerome Paillard is at a vantage position to comment on where the world of cinema is moving. With the market completing 50 years this time, Paillard speaks to Deccan Herald’s Utpal Borpujari on the road ahead and what India needs to do to get its cinema noticed globally:

There has been talk that the market has been low-key this year because of global recession. What’s your assessment?

Overall we had a market position very close to last year, and even if the official figures may be down by about four per cent, since many people took day passes, we think overall it has been very good. In terms of business, we feel that the market has been very qualitative this time. Companies with quality films have had big pre-sales and completed films have been picked up fast. Average filmmaking budgets have declined in recent times which factors in the lower prices some films have brought in. So, for me it is not connected with the global situation.

The market has completed 50 years this year. What is the road ahead? Will it be only pure cinema or will you also include new platforms in future?

We are the Festival de Cannes, and our main focus is cinema. But for me films does not mean only those in theatres. For many people films mean audio-visual works that were released primarily in theatres. I think that definition must change. I think what is more important for intrinsic characteristic of a film should be in terms of narration, rhythm, writing, the filming, the nature of the subject. If you have entertaining films with 3D, nice landscape, etc. you really need certain amount of investment, but there is also passionate, arthouse stories, which are an intimate cinematographic experiences.

A lot of Indian companies are coming to the market, but what should small, independent, regional filmmakers from India do to get their works notices amidst this?

For many years, it had been was a tradition for younger producers to come to Cannes to establish relationships, but it is not growing so fast now. Also, there was lot of talk of co-productions in regional languages or in English, but it is not happening very fast. There is clearly an interest but the government support has to grow more. I have had many discussions with Ministry of I&B, Directorate of Film Festivals and all the institutions, trying to explain to them that after the co-production treaty, each side must have real interest to have real co-productions happening. We are waiting for another Satyajit Ray to emerge from India, but there is no support for Indian films in India. Bollywood does not need governmental support, independent films need it more. There is no quota or access in theatres or TV, no tax credit and no support for regional Indian films. Certainly it is difficult for independent Indian films, but it is also difficult for any country that wants to co-produce independent films. At present, India gives no real incentives to foreign producers in the form of rebates or logistical support.

You have been visiting the Indian pavilion. Do you think it needs to have some definite focus to be effective in this regard?

You see, everything is connected. India does not have a film commission. The National Film Development Corporation is not working as a film commission, they are not providing location and other helps. In many countries, there are film commissions, and when one comes to shoot a film in those countries, they get a lot of support and easy authorizations, as also access to technical things and people. It is really important to have a film commission if there is real interest in India on this aspect. In the United States, it is the same as in India, with a very strong domestic market for Hollywood films. But the US also has very strong film commissions in its states. This is certainly something India needs to think about – not to support Bollywood which can support itself, but support independent films and co-productions.

Indian films have not been selected in Cannes for quite some time now. What is the secret formula to break through?

 I am not the right person to answer that. I am sure India has talent, but there is no environment to support those talents. I spoke with some Indian filmmakers, and for most of them the ultimate goal is to make Bollywood films because there is money, production facilities and recognition in that. I think there is not yet recognition in India for art-house films. I feel a little disappointed because I have met filmmakers who have real interest in making international cinema.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 01-06-2009)

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/5542/india-needs-film-commissions-support.html

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