New finance options for films was the flavour of Entertainment East, the daylong meet organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry. Film-making, which has only recently been conferred industry status, has been struggling for funds. Private investment has been the mainstay, even behind multi-crore Bollywood films. For the past few years, banks have been taking the Bollywood plunge.
But, curiously enough, in Tollywood, unlike the high-risk Hindi film industry, the hurdle is low budgets. Banks like IDBI provide funds only to projects above Rs 2 crore. Even the most ambitious of Bengali films do not come close. Banks will have to “think about alternative schemes” to support Bengali cinema.
Exhibitor and president of the Eastern India Motion Pictures Association Arijit Dutta spoke about marketing Bengali films. The wide rift between successful urban films and rural hits poses a challenge, he said. It also restricts the revenue potential for regional cinema. Footfall comes from the rural market, but “meaningful cinema” leans towards city viewership “not extending past Howrah”.
A return to universal themes was called for by P. Parmeswaran of the National Film Development Corporation. “Pather Panchali is the largest-selling film we have ever had. Every year, we strike five or six sales deals abroad — and not with the diaspora,” he stressed.
Director Goutam Ghose highlighted producers’ problems in a system where the exhibitors take home most of the revenues generated. Unless films do well overseas, producers often end up “paying from their own pocket”.
Though the meet was to include financing options for television as well, the only voice on behalf of the small screen was Derek O’Brien. “Give TV a thought. I can tell you, it is very profitable,” said O’Brien, whose company produces his show, Bournvita Quiz Contest.
Balaji Swaminathan, of ICICI, concurred. “We’ve been involved with TV for a while, and the difference is clear visibility in programming and finance,” he said. The Calcutta-based quizmaster was less optimistic about the chances to make the state a filming destination, given the problems caused by the system of shifts and overtime.