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‘Bad girl’ bags big bucks
- Buddhadeb Dasgupta film gives Bollywood a run for its dollars

Mumbai, Sept. 6: This bad little girl has taken Bengali cinema to where it has never been before.

Mondo Meyer Upakhyan, a film by Buddhadeb Dasgupta, has sold for around $1.25 million overseas. “That makes it the biggest Bengali film to have sold abroad,” says Vikramjit Roy of Columbia Tristar, which is marketing the film in India.

It may be the biggest price an Indian film of the “art” genre has ever fetched overseas, says Arya Bhattacharjee, the producer. It is not too far behind “commercial” Hindi blockbusters, as the highest Indian grosser abroad till date is Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, at $6 million.

The Mondo Meye’s challenge to mainstream Hindi cinema, which monopolises the market abroad, has not gone unobserved.

It made filmmaker and distributor Yash Chopra erupt in fury at a conference organised by Ficci today when director Aditya Bhattacharya mistakenly suggested that Dasgupta’s film had been sold for $10 million. “No Indian film has ever been sold for that amount,” said Chopra. “The highest price an Indian film has ever got is $6 million. I distributed the film; I should know,” he added, suggesting that the world market is still the preserve of Hindi cinema.

But Mondo Meye — marketed abroad as Tale of a Naughty Girl — is there already. Dasgupta has always enjoyed a good market abroad, but the secret of the stupendous success this time seems to lie in right marketing.

“We have entered into a number of deals the world over. Our agent is the Canada-based Vault Cinema, which is negotiating with distribution networks in different companies for the film to be shown in the “art-house” chain abroad,” says Arya, who is based in California and Calcutta.

A former Silicon Valley man, he started his production house, Arya Entertainment, to promote Indian and South Asian art and culture.

Arya says good films need good marketing, something that has worked wonderfully with Mondo Meye, his second venture. “We needed to create awareness in the right market. We showed the film at all the festivals: Toronto, Berlin, San Francisco, Sydney, Melbourne. At some festivals it was the only Indian film in the main section, with other films from the country being shown in the foreign language category.”

Arya says the film worked because his company was focused on market strategy. “We chose Cinema Vault so that they would go with the market of our film. Our company aims at producing South Asian and Indian content for the western market. Our audiences are second generation Asians and crossover western people.” The story line helped, too. “It is a universal story of a little girl who tries to escape from her situation. It’s a very spirited film, touched with humour,” Arya says.

Mondo Meye is the story of a sex-worker’s daughter who is galvanised when she hears that man will walk the moon. The idea becomes the platform from where she orchestrates her escape from her dreary predicament, as her mother wants her to become the concubine of a wealthy man. It features Rituparna Sengupta, Tapas Paul and Samata Das as the little girl.

The director agrees that the market matters. “The film has to be good, otherwise it cannot be marketed properly. At the end of the day, we have to believe in the market,” says Dasgupta.

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