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“Indian indie films don’t have a market in India or overseas”

Bollywood’s preoccupation with star-driven films and profits has totally eclipsed independent cinema. But are Indian art house films making their presence felt in the overseas markets? In Spotlight this week, Sagorika Dasgupta finds out

Manjeet Singh

Film: Mumbai Cha Raja

Background

I schooled in Mumbai and then studied mechanical engineering. After that, I acquired a Master’s degree in the US. But the film bug was rooted in me so I did a short course in filmmaking at the New York Film Academy. I knew, by now, that this was my calling and anything else was a waste of time. After I returned to India, I worked on blogging about cinema and was one of the initial authors of this trend. We would go to a film set and write accounts of what happened during the shoot. That’s how I met filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap and Nishikant Kamath. I blogged quite a lot during Kashyap’s No Smoking days and the blogs graduated to live discussions on the sets.

First Film

I had this idea for quite some time about the Ganesh festival in Mumbai. And so I set out with my DSLR camera and made the film. Filmmaking has become quite easy, thanks to digi-cams. I found a few street kids and did some workshops with them and cast them in the film. For locations, I chose places close to home and thus completed the film.

Finding Funding

Trying to find buyers for films like mine is still a big struggle in the country but travelling to film festivals helps. The film markets at festivals are a great place to network with buyers but you have to know the right people. Sometimes, film festivals take the focus away from their film markets. At a few festivals in India, the line-up of films is so strong that it works against your film. A lot of buyers come to watch international films and do not give Indian films due credit. There is a market for our films abroad. There is a large chunk of the international audience which has a hunger for Indian culture and films. But language can sometimes pose a problem. For instance, European markets are not very keen on subtitles and that mars the prospects of our films. Places like France, Germany and Spain are very receptive towards world cinema but there has been no strong traction for Indian films in these markets. Having a sales agent helps but I don’t think we have achieved any major breakthroughs so far.

International Market For Indie Films

To tell you the truth, indie films don’t have a market in India, nor do they have a market abroad. Distributors and even producers are mainly interested in films that have stars or that one big name that can sell a film. All the small-budget films that did well last year were those that had at least one big lead actor or one big star backing or promoting them. But, sure, there is curiosity about Indian films abroad. Like, when my film was showcased at Toronto Film Festival, 95 per cent of the audience comprised foreigners. Only time will tell whether these developments materialise or not.

Indian Scenario

In India, it is difficult to approach producers or even corporate studios to even pitch your film. There is barely any support. Even filmmakers who are known to be supporters of indie films are hard to approach. It is so discouraging that, never mind your first film, attempting a second film is difficult.The only solution to the proper distribution of indie films is to have a body that distributes these films, not just theatrically but also on other platforms like DVD, satellite and DTH.

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