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NFDC does a reality check

The NFDC (nodal agency for funding alternative Indian cinema) is belatedly waking up to the fact that it needs to do a reality check if it needs to survive, says Manjula Negi.

india Updated: Oct 18, 2003 16:56 IST
Manjula Negi
Manjula Negi

The National Film Development Corporation (nodal agency for funding alternative cinema in the country) is belatedly waking up to the fact that it needs to be in touch with reality if it needs to survive.

It cannot afford to languish anymore. And so, changes are being wrought at the policy level to resurrect the NFDC. And ironically, the one agency in the business of marketing Indian parallel cinema abroad, is today marketing itself to filmmakers and producers alike.

Even as budgets of commercial films go through the roof (Devdas at Rs. 50 crores) and even middle-of-the-road cinema (which is right up NFDC’s street) requiring nothing less than Rs. 2-3 crores, NFDC is stuck in a time and budget warp. They dole out a paltry Rs. 50 lakhs and expect a film, forcing filmmakers to look for alternative avenues.

A film like Raghu Romeo (starring Vijay Raaz of Monsoon Weddingf fame) by second time director Rajat Kapoor was given Rs. 40 lakhs while he managed 60-70 lakhs more from his personal sources (including asking friends). The film is being screened at the Film Market at the ongoing film festival for prospective buyers. Let’s hope it does get them.

Meanwhile, for an institution which rose on the strength of serious committed films made by the likes of Shyam Benegal, Kundan Shah, Saeed Mirza and Govind Nihalani (to name very few) in the 70s and early 80s, lost its appeal completely once the filmmakers had moved on to bigger, more profit-oriented projects – not to mention better financiers. And NFDC, being a government set up failed to motivate itself enough to remain in the running.

While the primary aim still remains to produce films the Corporation is now “facilitating mainstream cinema abroad. We are sending teams to the American Film Market and have already been to Cannes to sell Indian films. There is a need to showcase our kind of cinema,” says P. Parmeswaran, Director (Finance) NFDC who is participating in the Film Market.

While foreigners are still in the process of being converted to our kind of cinema, the huge Indian Diaspora in Europe demands Indian mainstream films for consumption. “We Indians are born culturally to come to theatres,” says Parmeswaran and today that demand for “movies-from-back-home is going up.” Audiences are still a curious mix, though. If in Australia there is a 30:70 ratio of locals vs. NRIs, in Malaysia it is the other way round. "The interest will take time to develop,” says the official.

Indian film weeks have also been organized in various countries ranging from Bahrain to Uzbekistan to Seychelles and Malaysia to showcase a variety of works. “We have 7-10 film packages for each of the nations and include everything from Pather Panchali to Mani Ratnam’s Kannathil Muthhamithal to Dattak by newcomer Gul Bahar Singh.”

While it is yet to early to begin the salutations and congratulations for the NFDC, one would have to acknowledge the effort being made. One can only hope they will pay - the efforts that is.

First Published: Oct 14, 2003 16:39 IST