Formula culture hard to break, say young filmmakers

Panaji: Cash crunch and inability to convince producers about novel plots are the big hurdles young filmmakers in the country are facing, said a group of directors attending the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) here Friday.

Speaking about their fears during an open interaction among filmmakers and delegates, successful young directors Gauri Shinde, Onir and Umesh Kulkarni said despite advances made by the film industry, the formula phenomenon still haunted most youngsters who offered interesting stories and narratives.

Gauri Shinde`s Sridevi-starrer ‘English Vinglish’ might have been a hit, but she said she had too had to struggle.

"When I started out, I didn`t think it would be an uphill task. I just went with my belief. But I then saw that people were not convinced. There was an unknown female debutant director, a yesteryear women in the lead, no hero, no item number, no conventional formula of Hindi cinema. I couldn`t at first understand their hesitance," she said.

Shinde was not a nobody even though her husband, R. Balki, is one of Mumbai`s leading ad men and director of Amitabh Bachchan-starrers ‘Cheeni Kum’ and ‘Paa’.

Still, Shinde said, it did not spare her the chore of making rounds of film distributors` offices.

Asked about the relationship of money with cinema, Gauri said: "It is important to make money and to return money. Filmmaking is not an indulgence by itself or at the other person`s cost."

Onir, known for his innovative marketing strategies for promoting his films, recalled an episode where a producer asked him to reorient his lead character to a bisexual to "enhance" the fortunes of ‘My Brother, Nikhil’.

"My films come from a space where we want to question certain aspects of life. These are films of a kind that require patronage. So the basic idea cannot change. For example, with `My Brother Nikhil`, it was impossible to get finance. I was asked to change the character and make him bisexual," Onir said.

He said the movie came to a fruition only because "all the actors worked for free" and mega production house Yash Raj Films distributed it.

The film was based on the real life story of a gay man in Goa, one of India`s first recorded HIV fatalities.

"The problem lies little with making the film. But after you are done with it, what do you do? I think there should be a space created for independent cinema, for free-thinking cinema," he said.

Umesh Kulkarni, a Marathi director and alumnus of Film and Television Institute of India, known for films such as ‘Valu’ (The Seed Bull), ‘Vihir’ (The Well) and ‘Deul’ (Temple), said Marathi films neither had proper distributors or buyers. But one had to make films to ensure that they went to the people.

"After borrowing money from friends and relatives we completed the film. The Marathi film industry doesn`t have distribution or buyers, but luckily my film was properly released in theatres and ran for six months," he said.


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