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Businessman on mission to revamp Indian cinema

Published : Dec 25, 2015, 5:05 am IST
Updated : Dec 25, 2015, 5:05 am IST

Filmmaker Shyam Benegal (from left), Dubai-based businessman and founder of the All Lights India International Film Festival Sohan Roy, Malayalam actor Mohanlal and actress Manju at the opening of the film festival.

manju.jpg
 manju.jpg

Filmmaker Shyam Benegal (from left), Dubai-based businessman and founder of the All Lights India International Film Festival Sohan Roy, Malayalam actor Mohanlal and actress Manju at the opening of the film festival.

The film festival season is in full steam at the moment in the country. The Kolkata, Mumbai, Goa, Kerala festivals are over. The second-tier festivals are coming up soon in Chennai, Pune and Bengaluru.

So where is there scope for one more film festival in the country

One is talking of the brand new All Lights India International Film Festival, held at Kochi in early November, which set in motion the kaleidoscope of film festivals in the country this year.

The brainchild of Dubai-based businessman S.K. Sohan Roy, this festival was in many ways an oddity and a rarity. For a first-time festival, it packed in too much stuff — numerous film sections, so many competition sections, panel discussions, workshops, a talent contest, and finally, even a film market. Ambitious intentions, but the focus was dissipated, the audience limited.

“I need a ‘project report’ for my first festival, so that I can do the next festival with ease,” stated founder-director Roy, with simple arithmetic sense.

“I run 45 companies with offices in 15 countries, this is one more project, you know,” he declared.

And like his companies, he has mega aims for his new film project.

The film festival is only the tip of the iceberg and the big-thinking businessman wants to “revamp the whole film industry of the country”.

“I have a vision,” said Roy. “I want to create at least 10,000 film screens in the country within 5 years.”

He launched a movie multiplex in Kerala’s capital city of Trivandrum, with the latest of sound and light system. He has started one in the small town of Angamali too and plans more in many B, C and D-tier cities in the country.

“In Patna, people came from far and near when we opened a multiplex,” he stated with pride.

According to him, “China had only 6,000 film screens six years ago, but now has nearly 25,000 screens. Why can’t India have the same ”

While his Arias company manages film projects in India, Mr Roy’s “Indywood” company is working on his international goal — to promote Indian cinema abroad.

“I plan to have Indywood representatives in every part of the globe who will personally work with the Indian community and promote Indian film releases abroad. I’ve just signed MoUs with an Indian businessman in Toronto and in New York,” he exclaimed.

A film lover who was forced to do an engineering degree and then, got into the shipping field, Mr Roy today runs one of the biggest ship-building and ship-inspection companies in the West Asia. He admitted that he was transferring the funds from his “bread and butter” business into the “jam” industry (film) that he always dreamt off.

Mr Roy wants to hold film festivals in different cities on a rotational basis. But one hopes he would focus on one city and take his film festival to the next level. He admitted that the infrastructure in Kochi was not the best for a film festival. However, with a tighter focus, less events, limited venues, a knowledgeable film-curatorial team, one feels the go-getting businessman could create a film festival in Kochi, that could well compete with the other cities in the country.

One of the impressive features of the festival was the strong presence of the local Kerala film industry, from young filmmakers to the veterans, stalwarts and film students. This is part of Mr Roy’s macrocosmic philosophy of opening out his festival to as much of the film industry as possible.

“I’m a God-fearing Communist who believes in sharing my profits with my staff,” he says. This was probably why many old “retired” film personnel were publicly felicitated at the festival.

Mr Roy’s maiden film production Damm 999 in 2011, made at a cost of $10 million, proved that the film-enthusiast could walk the talk, with its mega production values, international cast and strong story line that had its validity even today (especially after the recent Chennai floods).

Mr Roy was already planning his next mega film production — Kamasutra in 3D. He was planning to direct it with veteran Kerala filmmaker I.V. Sasi.

“Remember Satyajit Ray who dreamt of The Alien, but could not continue with his vision Well, I want to continue the dream,” said the businessman-turned movie entrepreneur. Didn’t I say this brand new film festival was an oddity and a rarity What one now waits to see is its longevity.