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Films in phone zone

How will our films be made in the next 20 years? When journalist Ankita Mukherji held up the crystal ball to Aparna Sen, Shantanu Moitra and Sujoy Ghosh, the filmmaker whose work has straddled both centuries became nostalgic at the Kolkata Literary Meet, co-hosted by Victoria Memorial, held in association with The Telegraph.

“I am old-fashioned,” Sen declared. “I like to see films in theatres.” Technology is undergoing a sea change. In the age of digitisation, negative-producing companies have shut shop. “It is a loss. Negatives give you a velvety quality. But digital films will get there.”

The most drastic change has been triggered by smartphones. “When you can shoot and edit on your phone, film-making need not be a cumbersome process. We hear of one-minute film festivals happening,” Sen said.

“I am looking forward to the audience getting empowered. Anyone can make films and post on YouTube,” agreed Ghosh. Increase in choices will open the audience to new ideas too. “I can now let a pregnant woman run on the streets of Calcutta. Earlier I would have faced resistance,” said the maker of Kahaani.

Moitra is reaping the benefits of technology by — among other things — bridging geographical borders. “A song in Madras Cafe was sung by the Pakistani singer Zeb, recorded there and emailed to me. She did not have to travel. New voices are also reaching me this way.”

But the dwindling attention span of audiences is taking a toll on the length of films and their music. “Many films relegate music to the title or the background score, or use just a few lines,” Moitra rued. He recalled being told that his soulful Behti hawa (3 Idiots) was a misfit as a ringtone, the prime revenue-earner for the music industry these days.

Sen pointed to how producers of “artistic films” have to keep an eye out for release dates of big-budget films. “A big film books all screens, pushing everything out of the way.” The government, she felt, needs to play a role by reserving exhibition space for niche films.

Ghosh had got the rights to Saradindu Bandyopdhyay’s Tungabhadrar Teerey. “But to make that film we will have to sell this space,” he said wryly, pointing to the Victoria dome.

The tussle between art and commerce will continue. “The challenge will be to marry the two,” Sen said.