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Copyright 2004


Cinema In General


Minister wants overseas market for Indian films tapped

NEW DELHI MARCH 22 2003. Indian cinema has never had it so good. It has never had it so bad. Strange, but this is precisely the kind of dichotomy that films in this country appear to be facing. In many ways directionless, and in some aspects far removed from even the dream and fantasy that they titillate viewers with, movies continue to rely on the strength of sheer numbers, rather than anything else to prove points and create a halo whose dazzle hides more than what it shows.

About 800 pictures pop out of the cans every 12 months, but except for a handful made by a fading team of artistic directors, the rest of them sink without a trace. Most of these do not even break even, and in a climate of such loss and disappointment, film moguls have often been turning to the Government for help, and, of course, in some cases to the mafia.

The Government declared cinema an industry some years ago and one had hoped that this would pave the way for institutional funding to start flowing. If this has not happened, the fault lies not exactly with banks and other financial bodies, but with the film fraternity itself. It has not been able to put its house in order: transparent corporate governance is not yet the norm. There is very little accountability, a factor that collapsed with the fall of the studio system.

Admittedly, some organisations such as the National Film Development Corporation, the Children's Film Society of India, and the Directorate of Film Festivals, whose purpose has been to promote and create an awareness of good, sensitive and sensible cinema, have been under-performing. So too, most men in charge of the celluloid world; they have ignored the one vital ingredient necessary to make our pictures memorable: script.

Alfred Hitchcock once said that the three key elements for a good work was "a good script, a good script and a good script''. Akira Kurosawa elaborated this even more wonderfully. "With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece. With the same script, a mediocre director can make a passable movie. But with a bad script, a good director cannot possibly make a good film'', he commented. One of Indian cinema's terrible pitfalls is the absence of good scripts and contents.

At a recent interview with the new Information and Broadcasting Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, here, one found that he had the right attitude to address the malaise that seems to have gripped our celluloid industry.

``Movies are my priority. They have the potential to usher in creativity and generate employment. If you have to push in the last segment of knowledge economy, entertainment must get top attention'', Mr. Prasad told The Hindu.

``I have been looking at films in a holistic manner by promoting co-productions in a big way. I am also looking at piracy. But the larger issue is to give the right exposure to Indian cinema outside our shores, so that the great market possibility it has can be usefully tapped''.

Mr. Prasad felt that a congenial atmosphere should be generated to help foreign movie producers to use India as a locale. There was no "single window clearance'', a problem which needed to be sorted out.

The Minister underlined the importance of the International Film Festival of India, scheduled to be held in mid-October. "We must have a permanent venue. There is a proposal to make Goa one. The advantage this place has is its tremendous tourist potential. We have to take a structured view''.

Mr. Prasad agreed with a suggestion that the Directorate of Film Festivals (a wing of the I & B Ministry), which organises the annual international event must have a permanent face.

In fact, the Directorate has not had a permanent Director since the closing years of the 1980s. Malti Sahai, who was at the helm of affairs at the Directorate, left many years after holding a temporary position. The current incumbent, Deepak Sandhu, holds dual charge: as head of the Directorate and an officer at the Press Information Bureau.

The Minister said that ultimately the Government could merely be a facilitator. The success of a movie depended on how good its content was. The Government had no role to play here. Mr. Prasad admitted that there was indeed scope for improvement in the National Film Development Corporation and the Children's Film Society.

More important, he was not in favour of doing away with movie censorship.

"A right blend of creativity and censorship is essential, but censorship must not be used in a manner that creativity is lost. At the same time, content creators must appreciate the sensibility in which they operate. At times, the madness of commercial consideration drives people crazy,'' the Minister said.

(This story appeared in The Hindu dated March 23 2003)

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