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I&B makes an offer you can’t refuse

Published : Nov 2, 2016, 11:07 pm IST
Updated : Nov 2, 2016, 11:07 pm IST

The launch of the 47th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) opened up with some great news for filmmakers.

A still from Visaranai, India’s official entry for Oscar 2017
 A still from Visaranai, India’s official entry for Oscar 2017

The launch of the 47th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) opened up with some great news for filmmakers. Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu announced a promotional fund for Indian films, which get selected as the official entry to the Oscars. Often, it is small budget films that make the big cut and therefore have meagre funds to promote the film on an international level. Unless it’s a Lagaan backed by the likes of Aamir Khan’s production house, a small film with a modest budget really must nudge its way through the clutter.

“I think it’s high time that we had such a system in place. It’s a welcome move because most of the films that go for these festivals require financial assistance,” says Gurvinder Singh, whose second feature Chauthi Koot (The Fourth Direction) was screened at Cannes under Un Certain Regard section.

Much like Singh’s film, others that made a big name recently were independent films too — The Lunchbox, Court, Masaan, Labour of Love, and Thithi, to name a few.

According to reports, the financial assistance is specifically aimed at covering the expenses at the festival such as engagement of publicist, travel of director, maker and key talent to make an appearance at the red carpet and press meets, accommodation, screenings, advertising and networking.

Gurvinder informs that he couldn’t send his film at India’s selection for Oscar because of funds. “I didn’t have the money, (which was roughly around Rs 1 lakh) to send the film to be considered as an entry. So perhaps the next thing to address would be funds for that,” he quips over the phone from Pune, where he is visiting his Alma Mater, Film and Television Institute of India.

Movie-making involves a lot of money of course, but creating the right buzz for it at a festival is a different ball game altogether, it turns out. The I&B Ministry’s proposed fund value for films selected to represent India at Oscars is Rs 50,00,000 — to Rs 1,00,00,000. The maximum amount varies of course. At Cannes, it is Rs 20,00,000 while at Director’s Fortnight, the amount would be Rs 15,00,000 each. Other festivals like Venice, Berlin, Rotterdam, Toronto, Busan and Locarno range from Rs 7,50,000 to Rs 15,00,000.

Raam Reddy who made the highly acclaimed Kannada film, Thithi last year, points out that these slabs could pose a problem. “With these different slabs, how does one decide which festival is more prestigious,” he asks. “That’s not to say that it isn’t a welcome move, of course. “World premieres of independent films are the most important because that’s where one gets distributors. Toronto especially, is a market where filmmakers are constantly trying to pitch their films to distributors,” he explains. Raam is currently “taking baby steps” into a new project, which will be in the genre of magic realism and will have well-known professional actors. However, he is quick to point out a few problems. “So far it seems that there are no strings attached and that’s a good thing.”

Filmmaker Aditya Vikram Sengupta is of the opinion that while moolah is always great news, it could help if the I&B ministry were to allot funds for movie-making too. “We have the NFDC (National Film Development Corporation of India), but it is the only one of its kind. I believe, there should be state bodies to help make regional films,” he says, reiterating that the initiative is definitely a plus. Aditya Vikram is currently working on Memories and My Mother, which is an Indo-French-German co-production, selected at Cannes Cinefondation’s l’Atelier 2016, making it the fourth Indian and the first Bengali film ever to be selected for the programme.

Neeraj Ghaywan, of Masaan fame has a few more suggestions for the ministry. Along with offering more funds, films should be given more of creative reign, he says. “The arbitrariness of censoring films is still prevalent. Even after Masaan won two awards at Cannes, when we had to release the film in India, the Board asked us to make several cuts. We had to remove words like “saala” and “saali” from our film which had anyway got an ‘A’ rating. Months later, a film with ‘U’ rating had the word in its title! Such arbitrariness remains un-addressed, which eventually affects the writers,” he concludes.