NFDC must be given the muscle it deserves to present a powerful platform for the ‘cinemas of India’
The National Film Development (formerly Film Finance Corporation) was formed in 1975 with the objective of fostering excellence in cinema and promoting the diversity of its culture by supporting and encouraging films made in various Indian languages. Which it did.
During the course of time, the organisation has put Indian cinema on the global map, something that detractors cannot take away. This organisation was, to a large extent, responsible for the growth in various cinemas of India, including the parallel cinema movement.
The organisation is also perhaps the only Indian production firm that was involved in bringing to India the much-celebrated Academy Award (Oscars) for Gandhi directed by Richard Attenborough, the production of which it was involved in.
More recently, under the leadership of its Managing Director Nina Lath Gupta, NFDC through its property of the Film Bazaar and its strategic partnerships, provided a platform for Indian filmmakers on a global scale. There was a time when the India party in Cannes was seen as the must-attend event, with the who’s who in attendance.
There was a time when programmers from leading festivals were clued in to what was happening in Indian cinema, courtesy the NFDC. There was a time when NFDC would promote new Indian filmmakers and back them to give them a platform to present themselves to the world as noteworthy talent to watch out for. Suddenly none of that exists, at least not the entire glory that it once functioned with.
NFDC is a splendid idea and its decapitation in any form is not the best thing for Indian cinema.
Over the years, the organisation has funded, backed and produced over 300 films and bagged innumerable National Awards and global acclaim, only to suddenly slow down the vociferous work it does. Even today, the annually held Film Bazaar in Goa attracts the best of international curators, producers and sales agents, in addition to scores of Indian filmmakers and producers who look forward to the platform it provides.
More recently, films like Court, Killa, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Qissa, Shanghai (NFDC co-production), Ship of Theseus and The Lunchbox (NFDC co-production) grew to become benchmarks in their own right and made use of the Film Bazaar platform that NFDC provided. Even today, the Bazaar stands as a discovery ground for Indian films for the many high-profile international attendees.
Sure, this piece reads like a praise piece for the NFDC, and it definitely is. The reality is the fact that the cinemas of India were presented as one and they were the only ones to do it. The need for a united face for Indian cinema is lacking.
Walk through the Cannes Market or a Berlin Market and you will notice how each country and its industry is facilitated with a single booth, stand or pavilion (notwithstanding the big companies or studios who have their own stands and booths): the French, through UniFrance, the Japanese through UniJapan, the Canadians through Telefilm Canada or the National Film Board of Canada, and Korea through KOFIC, to name a few. We, on the other hand, are well represented by a million fragmented. bodies each gunning for the top spot, yet none offering any sort of valuable information from an international perspective.
A couple of years ago, there was much hue and cry made of NFDC’s parties at Cannes and allegations tossed about. This was done with little research or no research and definitely no understanding of the impact such an event has to present a nation that produces the largest number of films.
For all the talk and walk that is done, is there any other organisation in the country that can safely say that it has facilitated innumerable films travelling to international film festivals, or has strategic partnerships with film and script labs across the world, or even that the best of people and script mentors assist our Indian filmmakers in honing their scripts?
As if the voices of the numerous filmmakers across the country were not enough, Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the much-celebrated Toronto International Film Festival said, “All of us who are interested in Indian independent cinema would love to have one event each year that would bring together all the key filmmakers and industry people. The Film Bazaar is the closest we’ve come to that one-stop shop. The films it showcases have international potential, and it cultivates an atmosphere of serious collaboration. “
He added, “For me, the NFDC’s biggest achievements with the Film Bazaar have been to put the spotlight on new, contemporary voices in Indian cinema, and also to showcase the regional diversity of Indian cinema.“
A studio executive who travels to festivals like MIPCOM, Cannes and Berlin said, “Whenever we travel, we prefer to have our own booth. This just allows us the freedom to have the meetings at our convenience without upsetting anyone. The work NFDC has been doing is great but we can’t be seen as having favorites and the best thing for us is to do it ourselves.”
This rather eloquent executive has hit the nail on the head. Take a step back to realise the organisation was set up to further a cinema-making nation and not an individual organisation, body or person. Why should a larger community of young filmmakers suffer and be deprived of the support system it has?
Whether you like it or not, the question being asked on the international level is: whatever happened to the NFDC that they knew?
The organisation under the I&B Ministry has yet again filled a much needed gap with the Film Facilitation Office, to create single-window clearance for foreign filmmakers and studios wanting to film in India.
Currently, there are only two bodies – FICCI (with its annual FICCI Frames, the support system it provides at Cannes and the upcoming market place) and NFDC (Film Bazaar and the support system it provides at Cannes) – that seem to be watching out for the interests of cinemas across India and not one region or state alone. The need of the hour remains their empowerment. Once this need is fulfilled, it will help propel Indian cinema across the globe.
The unfortunate part is, while everything else is being figured out, the concern of being able to present quality Indian cinema globally has been taken up by individuals in a private capacity, sans the muscle, support or extensive resources that these organisations come with. Whether noted producers like Guneet Monga (Sikhya Entertainment), Manish Mundra (Drishyam films) or Vivek Kajaria (Holy Basil and Basil Content); or filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane; or Indian programmers and curators like Uma Da Cunha, Deepti DaCunha, Bina Paul, Smriti Kiran, Anu Rangachar and Meenakshi Shedde, they have been the ones pushing cinemas of India, whether by talking about it internationally, assisting these numerous filmmakers and producers with resources or simply sending quality works from the country the way of international festivals, sales agents and buyers.
“No one cares about what you do right, they care about what you do wrong,” a producer once told me, a statement that rings true. Maybe it’s time to care a tad more about the greater good than the individual good. Just maybe it won’t kill to see goodness for a community as a whole, which supersedes the good being done for an individual entity.