In­de­pen­dent Cinema Needs Pa­tron­age and Sub­sidy

A pe­ti­tion to re­di­rect funds al­lo­cated for the preser­va­tion of cin­e­matic her­itage to­wards the cre­ation of a cur­rent one, is gain­ing mo­men­tum. ASHVIN KU­MAR bol­sters the case

Tehelka - - PHOTOGRAPHY -

INA show of sol­i­dar­ity, over 30 in­ter­na­tional award-win­ning film­mak­ers, in­clud­ing an Os­car win­ner, two Os­car nom­i­nees and a plethora of Na­tional Award win­ners have lent their names to a move­ment called ‘Save Indie Cinema’. This comes shortly af­ter an an­nounce­ment by the Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion & Broad­cast­ing ear­mark­ing 600 crore for the preser­va­tion of In­dian cin­e­matic her­itage. As in­de­pen­dent film­mak­ers, we con­tend that while it’s crit­i­cal to pre­serve the past, what about nur­tur­ing and fer­til­is­ing our present and the fu­ture? If 200 crore from the 600 crore is ap­pro­pri­ately al­lo­cated, it could bring about a mi­crorev­o­lu­tion in de­vel­op­ing a new cul­ture of art-house or par­al­lel cinema driven by so-called “smaller films”.

The role of the State in pa­tron­age of the arts is set­tled. Coun­tries like the UK, France, Ger­many, Canada, Aus­tralia, South Africa, Italy and Spain pro­vide sub­si­dies, tax breaks and grants for in­dige­nous fare and cinema from other coun­tries. In do­ing so, they recog­nise that cinema is THE cul­tural glue of the 21st cen­tury. In­ter­est­ingly, some films from In­dia would not have been made if it were not for grants from such coun­tries. Yet, we are found want­ing in our own ef­forts to do the same, de­spite the fact that the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia has well-con­ceived in­sti­tu­tions with strong man­dates to de­velop and sus­tain in­de­pen­dent cinema. Over the years, some of these in­sti­tu­tions have slipped into de­cay or dys­func­tion. A good ex­am­ple is that of Do­or­dar­shan, our State-spon­sored chan­nel. For starters, it could get out of the busi­ness of sub­si­dis­ing stu­dio-driven, self-sus­tain­ing films. It could fo­cus on of­fer­ing a plat­ter of di­verse films across the In­dian na­tion, thereby help­ing rev­enue gen­er­a­tion for smaller in­de­pen­dent films, as our pe­ti­tion elo­quently ar­gues.

Equally, the In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val of In­dia ( IFFI) in Goa is an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of a highly-funded film fes­ti­val that is fir­ing so be­low its po­ten­tial that it is not taken se­ri­ously by the in­ter­na­tional film community. IFFI could be­come a premier film fes­ti­val of the Asian world, a slot presently oc­cu­pied by Bu­san and Abu Dhabi, the cap­i­tal of UAE that, till re­cently, did not have film in­dus­try of its own. Osian’s Cine­fan, a pri­vate and self-funded Delhi-based film­fes­ti­val, has made a con­vinc­ing claim for the space ab­di­cated by IFFI Goa, and, de­spite troubles, has bounced back with a suc­cess­ful edition in 2012.

The Na­tional Film De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion ( NFDC), on the other hand, is an ex­am­ple of the gov­ern­ment’s suc­cess. Lan­guish­ing and los­ing money for over three decades, the re­cently re­vived NFDC has now demon­strated what can be achieved if good in­ten­tions are al­lowed to in­form the prac­tice of pa­tron­age and sub­sidy. Not only is it post­ing profit, in three short years, it has en­gaged film­mak­ers across a broad spec­trum on the ba­sis of their body of work or sin­gu­lar prom­ise. It is an ex­am­ple of the kind of en­light­ened pa­tron­age needed for the cul­ti­va­tion of cin­e­matic arts in In­dia.

The pe­ti­tion we have jointly signed is an at­tempt to ex­plain to the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia what indie cinema is and what it could be­come, if sup­port and pa­tron­age is prop­erly chan­nelled. Our point is premised on a sim­ple idea: all art re­quires pa­tron­age to sur­vive and do all the good things that art does in civilised so­ci­ety — push bound­aries of the medium, of­fer va­ri­ety to au­di­ences, in­cu­bate fiercely orig­i­nal voices, fos­ter a spirit of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, de­pict the hu­man con­di­tion, re­flect re­cent trends in cul­ture and ul­ti­mately morph into chron­i­cler, ar­chiv­ist and ed­u­ca­tional tools of the fu­ture.

It is un­for­tu­nate that in our coun­try, cinema is un­err­ingly con­fused with self-sus­tain­ing busi­nesses that only pro­vide en­ter­tain­ment, ones that do not re­quire sup­port or sub­sidy. In­deed, a busi­ness that can be sub­jected to a usu­ri­ous tax struc­ture, ar­tic­u­lated through taxes on ev­ery­thing from film ma­te­ri­als to en­ter­tain­ment tax, or to an ex­or­bi­tant fee charged by, for ex­am­ple, the Cen­tral Board of Film Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to vet films. The present cli­mate is de­cid­edly un­friendly and a de­ter­rent for smaller film­mak­ers.

Not only do we in­de­pen­dent film­mak­ers tend to pro­duce films that chal­lenge norms of cinema and sto­ry­telling, at the very least, our films play that vi­tal role of por­tray­ing an

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