| Yash Chopra and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee debate a point at Frames: The Eastern Chapter 2002 on Monday. Picture by Pabitra Das
Two men. One a Marxist chief minister, with a passion for cinema; the other a veteran filmmaker, with a penchant for feel-good romance. Two industries. One struggling to stay afloat; the other desperate to grow bigger. If the ‘freeze frame’ of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Yash Chopra in conversation on Monday was anything to go by, it’s time to build bridges between Tollywood and Bollywood.
“Can you come and meet me on Tuesday morning' I would like to discuss a few things with you,” Bhattacharjee reportedly asked the maker of Kabhi Kabhie. Chopra said he was leaving on Monday night, but was ready to “come down to Calcutta any time” that the chief minister wished him to, “for a chat on the local entertainment industry”.
The two were sharing the dais, and whispered words, at ‘Frames: The Eastern Chapter 2002’ — a joint initiative by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) — to push for a Tollywood turnaround, with a boost from Bollywood.
“The content in Bengal is brilliant and if marketing and funding can be taken care of, it can work wonders for the industry here,” said Chopra, chairman, Ficci entertainment committee. “Our aim is to create a situation where the hand-holding will be mutually beneficial. For example, I am considering the proposal to allow Rituparno Ghosh to use the marketing and distribution network of Yashraj Films to reach markets outside Bengal and India.”
Bhattacharjee, the longest-serving information and culture minister in Bengal, reiterated the government’s commitment to crack down on piracy and offer the industry some sops. “But the effort should always be directed towards producing quality films… Cultural degeneration in the name of entertainment is not at all healthy,” he warned.
To give tinsel town a healthier hue, Frames 2002 focused on three prime concerns — piracy, funding and marketing. If Chopra expressed a willingness to lend marketing muscle to Bengali films, Bobby Bedi — producer of Bandit Queen and Fire — spoke of “financing Bengali ventures”. According to Bedi, convener of Ficci-Frames, regional filmmakers are the “worst sufferers” of an unstructured system of financing. “Institutional offerings will help them and also stem the flow of bad money into the industry. We are working out various modes of film finance,” added Bedi, whose Kaleidoscope Entertainment Pvt Ltd is weighing the “feasibility” of funding some “interesting” Tollywood projects.
Declaring war against piracy, a problem highlighted by the Eastern India Motion Pictures Association, Chopra said: “It’s our battle and we will have to fight it. So, we have decided to set up a Piracy Fund Deducted at Source (PDS) to mobilise resources.” PDS calls for one per cent of the total earnings of all members of Bollywood being deducted at the source to set up the fund. “We want all regional industries to join us,” said Chopra.
The counter-piracy move will be led by super cops like K.P.S Gill in the north and Ronnie Mendonca and Julio Ribeiro in the west. “We are looking for people who will lead the movement in the east and south,” added Chopra.