S M Fasiullah for BeyondHeadlines
Prominent figures from Bollywood raised concerns for New Wave Indie Cinema (Art Cinema or Parallel Cinema), at a time when India celebrates 100 years of cinema.
The challenges and “threat” faced by Indie cinema is highlighted by noted Bollywood personalities including Shyam Benegal, Kiran Rao, Anusha Rizvi, Zoya Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Resul Pookutty, Nandita Das, and Juhi Chawla.
Exhibition is viewed as the biggest challenge faced by Indie film makers, as multiplexes which avail tax benefits for promoting small budget content films are “destroying small cinema by only playing the box office game”.
“High ticket pricing that is inappropriate for small budget films, inadequate number of shows and odd show timings further destroy the possibility of Indie cinema (regional and Hindi) to have any proper chance at being viewed,” they noted in an online petition.
“It defies logic that a 150 crores film and a 1.5 crore film are priced by the multiplexes in the same manner. Given the current scenario we feel that that National Television channel Doordarshan can play a vital role (like it did once upon a time when it aired good Indian and world cinema every Sunday) in supporting and nurturing meaningful Cinema.”
While applauding the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s initiative to spend 300 crores to revive archival Indie films, these Bollywoodians have put forwarded following observations and suggestions:
1. Why are films being discriminated as opposed to TV programmes? TV content is not censored and has much wider viewer-ship and is exposed to the viewers indiscriminately. Why is it that serials/reality shows get away with so much regressive content while films face so much censorship when it comes to TV? Once a film is cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification it should be allowed to be screened on TV according to appropriate time slot without any further censorship.
a. 9 pm slots for U/A rated films on DD and Satellite.
b. 11pm slot for A rated films on DD and Satellite. It would be a shame if some of the gems of Indian cinema cannot be seen on DD because of this policy.
How could Doordarshan play a constructive role in supporting Indie cinema?
2. All National Awards film irrespective of language should at least be given at least one prime time screening slot. It would be a shame that these films, which have received Government recognizition are relegated to time slots that are considered ‘The Graveyard Slot”. Once again like multiplexes here too BLOCK BUSTER films, irrespective of the fact that they very often contain regressive content, are given the prime time slot.
3. Showing National award winning films during prime time will truly serve the purpose of the word “NATIONAL” and promote awareness and understanding within the country of our plurality and diverse culture. Today cinema can serve as a link between various languages and cultures within our country. While we talk about crossing over to the outside world it’s more important that we cross over within our state boundaries. And DD can play a pivotal role in this.
4. All National Award winning films get eligible for all the categories, and hence DD telecasts become a significant component of the recovery system. Winning the National Award should also transform into monetary benefit so that we can make more films in that space.
5. NFDC used as body to identify other indie cinema from across the country which should be given a platform on DD and provided at least one prime time screening slot.
The need for our own screening space.
6. In a year where 300 crores is being spent on reviving archival material even if one third the amount was spent in building spaces – as in low cost exhibition space across the country – which will screen Indie films irrespective of language at lower ticket price it would change the course of cinema in India. There are also many cities which have existing structures that are under-utilized or unused and can be renovated. With 100 crores allocated for this purpose we would soon have a significant no of screens across the country…. and then we would truly be celebrating the cinemas of India.
7. In France the Government has a policy where it’s mandatory for every multiplex to reserve all shows in one screen irrespective of collections for indie cinema. Multiplexes when they were created were given 5 years of tax benefit. It should be made mandatory for them to block one screen for indie cinema from across the country.
8. This would also mean that a body needs to be created to identify which films qualify for being screened at these places. We would suggest that under the heading of NFDC centers be made in different parts of India like Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi, Trivandrum and Guwahati where a group of 5 film makers vote for films that can qualify.
9. Once a regional film has been selected by the board it should automatically given tax exemption when released in other states so as to promote within the country exchange of films.
10. Once a film is awarded the National Award it automatically falls under tax exemption. However most of the films awarded are films that are released. To make this gift to the film maker of real significance we would request the government to refund the tax earned from these films.