India’s National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) was first established in 1975 to encourage good cinema. But it soon went in decline. But the orgnaisation has had a re-birth and has now transformed into an assertive organisation all set to produce and promote good cinema from various pockets of India. Nina Lath Gupta, the current chairman also considered as one of the most powerful women from the world of cinema is the architect of this change. We quiz her about her vision which will take Indian cinema to greater heights.
Interview by Dhanya Nair
Think Indian cinema and one immediately thinks of Bollywood’s mega blockbusters and a melee of family sagas. But beyond the pomp and splendour, is an organisation that does the laborious work of giving voice to storytellers and film makers with a vision of fostering excellence in cinema. The National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) was established in 1975 to promote good cinema and it gave us some memorable films like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, Mirch Masala and Salaam Bombay to name a few before going into a decline.
But, now it is making a strong comeback. “New-Indian cinema” might be a favourite catch phrase with cinema aficionados but it disappears in a waffle when a star-laden movie hits the marquee. To support its cause is a new and improved NFDC. Over the past six years, NFDC has shed its old, stodgy and is all set to promote good Indian cinema in India and abroad. The raw and revived energy of the organisation is constantly preening and polishing the new breed of Indian cinema and giving it enough teeth to cut through the smorgasbord of a star-driven market.
Gupta took over the government-owned NFDC in 2006 and has been changing its profile with her steadfast approach. According to Hollywood Reporter, she is one of the 12 most powerful women in global cinema. She has introduced a plethora of initiatives like the Film Bazaar and Screen-Writer’s Lab to promote good cinema. “We’re a development body and not here to compete with the mainstream production houses,” says Gupta. “Our job is to translate development into economics,” she continues.
“The beauty of Indian cinema is that it is very resilient and that is the thriving force which has made Indian cinema such a global phenomenon,” says Gupta. One of the ways, by which the organisation is working towards its aim, is the Film Bazaar. “The Film Bazaar is the promotion arm of the NFDC. It is a film market we started in 2007. One of the problems many festival facilitators, potential co-producers etc faced is that when they come to Mumbai and Chennai, they realise it is such a huge country with varied cinema. So, the film bazaar is like a one-stop shop where they can come and interact with various film-makers. It is a convention where film makers from across South Asia pitch scripts to and seek funding from the international fraternity,” says Gupta.
The film Bazaar started with 204 guests from 18 countries and last year saw 750 delegates from 32 countries. Gupta firmly believes that the Film bazaar is all about co-productions. Co-productions help people across the globe to set up partnerships creatively and technically. As content is paramount for any film, the Bazaar creates a platform for facilitating good content.
NFDC’s mandate is not just production but distribution and facilitating god Indian cinema in India and abroad. “Cinema has always been a grass-root movement, people make films for passion. We want to promote this good cinema,” says Gupta.
This year, they have also started a screen-writers lab. “It is a platform that gives an opportunity to independent screenwriters to develop their skill under the guidance of a variety of industry experts from across the globe,” says Gupta. The Lab also creates a unique opportunity for these scripts to gain a direct entry to the Film Bazaar Co-Production Market. “The lab will make screen-writers more sustainable from script-writing stage to production stage,” says Gupta.
Gupta is very positive about the current crop of Indian cinema but insists that it is not a recent phenomenon. “To be very candid, Indian cinema has not become a global phenomenon in the recent years. It has been a form that has been appreciated and respected for many, many years,” says Gupta. “For instance, Sant Tukaram was the first Indian cinema that was showcased at the Venice International Film Festival in 1936. Indian cinema did really well globally even in the 40s, 50s and the 80s,” says Gupta.
“The present crop of cinema is really interesting– a true reflection of our times like cinema always is,” says Gupta. “Our USP is that there many different kinds of cinema in India. Nothing really reflects the diversity of our country as beautiful as the medium of film-making does. We make movies in 25 languages. I think the true strength lies in giving all these cinemas a true and equal opportunity to grow,” says Gupta about the challenges of Indian cinema. “Real success would be when people of this country see movies in different regional languages and enjoy our own diversity like we enjoy the global diversity,” says Gupta.
Shim Jae-myung, Co-founder- Myung Film (South Korea)
Sophie Turner Laing, Managing Director of Entertainment & News- BSkyB (UK)
Dee Forbes, Head- Discovery Networks International EMEA (UK)
Mika Morishita, Director- TIFFCOM (Japan)
Satoko Uchiyama, Producer at TV Asahi (Japan)
Ivy Ho, Director-Producer (Hong Kong)
Andrea Barata, Producer (Brazil)
Louise Vesth, Producer (Denmark)
Heather Shaw, Executive Chair- Corus Entertainment (Canada)
Noa Tishby, Actress/Producer (Israel).