Will the Information & Broadcasting Ministry's plan to shut down the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) and the Children's Film Society of India (CFSI) and create a large umbrella organization help the cause of the Indian film industry? It does sound like a visionary idea, but the new organization in order to really make an impact on the industry has to be far more involved and proactive. India is the largest film producing country in the world but the Government's support to the industry is miniscule. Yes, NFDC is known to be shelling out over Rs 3,000 crore per year to fund films, but do those films ever see the light of the day? Unlikely. The CFSI also funds children films on a regular basis, but these films rarely get exhibition space. Children films screened in India are largely animated films released by international studios such as Disney.
In most evolved markets, especially in countries such as France, Germany and UK, the Government supports the industry in a huge way. "In France, a considerable percentage of the tax that the Government collects from the film actually goes back to support the industry. They give funds to independent film makers not just to produce their films but also distribute them. They even have caps on how much one can spend on promotions and advertising so that there is fair play. In India we don't have any exhibition space for independent cinema. Multiplexes are not bothered about independent cinema," points out independent film-maker, Onir. Why can't the Government film body invest in the growth of the business of films and contribute to the GDP, questions Vikram Malhotra, Founder, Abundantia Entertainment. He says that the Government body should be ideally partnering with the private studios and co-producing films, financing them as well as set up talent infrastructure in addition to just funding independent art films. "If the investments they are making are channelized properly, the Government could be the largest contributor to the Indian film eco-system. Why can't they partner with say Salman Khan to produce a children's film," remarks Malhotra.
All that the NFDC actively promotes today is the Film Bazaar which attracts buyers and researchers from across the world to come and buy Indian films. But why can't the Government body distribute and exhibit films too? The Government body also needs to be far more accountable. "If it's spending Rs 50 crore on a film, it should also have an answer as to how the film is doing in the box office and more importantly, is it being screened in the first place," says Malhotra.
So, while an umbrella film organization certainly seems to be in the right direction, the body, first and foremost needs to be transparent. It should be a secretariat of motion pictures and promote public-private partnerships. Just funding a few films or at the most getting Indian films to be screened at film festivals abroad isn't enough. The Government-owned film body needs to learn several lessons of public-private partnerships from other markets to really be able to make an impact on the film industry.