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“Why the obsession with going West?”

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

Filmmaker: Priya Krishnaswamy

Film: Gangoobai


My parents were teachers and I grew up in Africa. I grew up on a healthy diet of films, which my parents used to take me to watch in open-air clubs. After the screening, we would discuss the films too. Later, I did a course at FTII and chose editing as my specialty. And before I knew it, my third documentary won me a National Award. I was also selected for the Screenwriter’s Lab. It was a great experience and gave vision to my voice. Soon after that, I happened to come to Mumbai, and that’s where my film career really took shape. It was the golden era of indie films. Films like Hyderabad Blues were doing well. That’s the time I edited Kaizad Gustad’s Bombay Boys. We had no idea the film would be a success but it went on to become quite popular.

First Feature Film

I had the Gangoobai story with me for a long time. It had universal appeal and I began to pitch it to indie film producers. But no one wanted to back an independent filmmaker. Thanks to NFDC, these problems were finally resolved.

International Market For Indie Films

I never focused on getting into an international co-production for my film and so I didn’t need a sales agent per se. For me, the domestic market is more important. I don’t believe in this crossover business. My film is very rooted in its sensibilities and so I was not looking for a big international release. But on a generic level, we are still in that phase where big films do well abroad. I am told that actors like Shah Rukh Khan have a huge fan following in places like Germany but that’s because he is a big star, so his films earn a lot of revenue from these places. But as far as indie films are concerned, I would like to imagine that we have a market globally, but I doubt that’s translating into actual business.

Slumdog Millionaire did this to our films. It was a film made by a Westerner and it showed India from his perspective. But if you really think about it, it’s just another Bollywood masala film. So that film’s perception has further typecast our Indian films for the Western audience. In fact, why do we keep talking about going West? I met a technician from New York once, who told me he wanted to come to India and work with me. When I asked him if he had the money to co-produce a film with me, he replied that India has the richest man in the world. He is even funding Steven Spielberg’s films! Our studios have risen to that level now, so I think it’s a waste looking West.

Indian Scenario

The distribution of indie films in the country has improved thanks mainly to multiplexes and the fact that Indian producers like PVR are taking an interest in these subjects. There may be one or two films like Stanley Ka Dabba, which was appreciated and made a money from various international markets. Bollywood itself has undergone a sea change, with films like Vicky Donor and Talaash doing well at the box office, which has further opened doors for indie films.

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