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Piracy peril to celluloid success story

Despite “a fairly good run” for the Bengal film industry in 2002, cable and video piracy could trip Tollywood in 2003. The warning rang out loud and clear at the Eastern India Motion Pictures Association’s (EIMPA) meeting on Monday. Newly-elected president Arijit Dutta expressed “grave concern” over the piracy problem “running riot” in the past four months.

“We have informed chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee about the 10,000 illegal video parlours in the state. Initially, he did depute someone to crack down on such parlours but ever since a few films started doing well, the pirates are back in action,” said Dutta.

Things to look forward to are the framing of a film policy to promote “good cinema”, amendment of archaic laws, revamp of the infrastructure of studios and a single-window permission system for shooting at various locales. “A producer has to face many obstacles if he wants to film a sequence on the streets. Bureaucratic hassles are proving to be a major deterrent in such cases,” added Dutta.

Sources said the problem has been compounded following the alleged refusal of the chief minister to start an outdoor studio, on the lines of Film City. “Such a studio would have encouraged film-makers from different states to shoot their projects here,” sources added.

According to EIMPA officials, Tollygunge is looking at “Rs 1,000-crore business” in the next two years. “The interest shown by organisations like Ficci and stalwarts like Yash Chopra, besides the advent of leading Bollywood actresses like Aishwarya Rai and Tabu, are all reassuring signs for the industry,” observed Krishna Daga, chairman, producers’ section, EIMPA. The Association has added “at least 80 new members” in the wake of Bengali films doing well, said Daga.

Another “positive sign” is the advent of multiplexes in the city. Refuting statements that such complexes would push up the price of cinema tickets and, thereby, spell doom for the industry, Dutta said: “Previously, viewers could never imagine shelling out more than Rs 20 for Bengali films. Now, they are ready to buy tickets for Rs 120. Whatever the prices of tickets are, people would definitely like to watch films in swanky environs, with the latest technology.”

Dipen Mitra, of Mitra cinema, said most exhibitors would like to promote Bengali films, provided government subsidy was readily available. “Halls have been revamped and facilities are being introduced. It’s now for the film-makers and the audience to strike a common chord and help the industry shed its negative image,” he added.

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