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Hemant Gaba: You've made your film. Now what?

By: Hemant Kumar Gaba

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Last Updated: April 07, 2012, 10:34 IST

Hemant Gaba: You've made your film. Now what?

Filmmaker Hemant Kumar Gaba details the circuitous route to seeing a film to completion in his column.

When I finally managed to finish my first feature length film Shuttlecock Boys which took me a good 2.5 years to pull off (normally this period would vary between 1.5-2 years for first time filmmakers, mine was just a little longer), I wondered – What do I do now ? That was my thought process in January 2011 after the film got completed.

I was not wise or smart enough before making the film to chart out the strategy on how the film will be showcased after it was complete. That's because I was not even sure, if I will be able to make a full length feature film. I thought, let's try it; we will see what happens.

I started figuring out what normally happens after a film finishes. If it's a Bollywood film from a studio or with an experienced producer, the film will already have a release date and a publicity plan. But what happens to Independent Films? That was question to which I wanted to find an answer. There will be few of those Independent Films which are made on a decent budget say Rs 2 crore or above that might be released independently; some recent examples might be 'Love You to Death' or 'Tutiya Dil'.

In cases like these, the producer might find territory wise distributors who charge commission on every ticket or a flat fee plus the producer bears all advertising and publicity costs. And territory distributor also asks for no less than TV promotion these days besides the publicity and advertisements in Print and Hoardings. So, the producer releasing the film independently will have to shell out at least a crore which sometimes might be equal or more than the cost of his small film. There are also non-studio independent films which are made in crores. But I imagine if an independent producer can spend Rs 3 crore on a film; he can probably spend another one or two crore for the release as well.

With digital filmmaking, a lot of independent filmmakers have been experimenting and churning out good concept films for less than one crore. Now what happens to them? Conventionally, such films will try to hit the Film Festival Circuit. If the film has a subject that attracts film festival (e.g. any of the cause related story), if it's a well made film and a right film festival programmer spots the film; then it might debut in any of the A League International Film Festivals that indeed helps in creating some buzz and attract some PR activity.

But the generated buzz and an excellent International Film Festival run might not even translate into a Domestic Theatrical Release (forget about getting the investment back). 'Harud' & 'Soul of the Sand' both premiered in Toronto International Film Festival in 2010 and more recently Gurvinder Singh’s 'Alms for a Blind Horse' produced by NFDC (it won several awards including National Awards) and Amit Dutta’s 'Sonchidi' began their journey with prestigious Venice Film Festival last year but yet to come out in India in any form (hopefully, it shall happen). But there are also films like 'I Am Kalam' which was a favorite on the festival circuit, sold its rights in several International Territories and of course impressed critics and audiences on its theatrical release in India. Such Indie films are of course, one or two in far and between.

Then there is another list of Indie Films that I recently came across (not yet theatrically released) e.g. Saurabh Kumar’s 'Handover', Sandeep Mohan’s 'Love Wrinkle Free', Srinivas Sunderrajan’s 'Greater Elephant', Karan Gour's 'Kshay', Ajita Suchitra’s 'Ballad of Rustom', Chhatrapal Ninawe 'Dvandva', Prashant Nair's 'Delhi in a Day', Chandra Pemmaraju's 'Love Lies and Seeta' and many others. What will happen to these films and what does the filmmaker end up doing? I don't know about their strategies but I am yet to find those answers for myself.

There are certainly some brave & inspiring ones out there like Srinivas whose debut 'The Untitled Karthik Krishnan Project' hasn't released yet but went on to direct 'Greater Elephant' which won a Jury Prize in a film festival in US. And sometimes, things do turn around like for Ashwin Kumar who went on to make National Award Winning Documentary like 'Inshallah Football' but his feature film 'The Forest' produced before is releasing now after 3 years or Rajshree Ojha’s 'Chaurahen' made in 2007 saw a theatrical release only after 5 years but she had the courage to work on her second film 'Aisha' that did come out in 2010.

This 'turn around' happened because multiplex chain PVR introduced a new label called 'PVR Director's Rare' that is releasing Independent Films but that certainly doesn’t take away the perseverance that these filmmakers have demonstrated. Of course, Anurag Kashyap is legendry in this context because when his film 'Paanch' was not released (still not released even after nine years), 'Gulal' was stuck in between when he went on to make 'The Black Friday' which also took three years to see the light of the day.

Coming back to PVR’s initiative, I wish other multiplex chains take similar initiatives too; but they will probably wait till they see ONE such Indie Film making loads of money OR they develop a financial model around it which will fetch them good returns. I tried exploring why a theatrical release is so important in our so called filmmaking industry’s mindset. That’s because release on any other platforms like DVD, Pay per View on DTH, Satellite OR Internet is solely dependent on the theatrical release.

Try meeting any Home Video Label, DTH, Satellite or even Youtube Box Office Channels; you will find that even though all of them will only give you a revenue share deal (except Satellite Rights) for your film but they still ask for a theatrical release. There would probably be single digit number of films out there that might have got released on other platforms without a theatrical release (which happens via industry relationships).

And now why don’t we have a model till date for independent films neither in theatres (barring 3 months old PVR’s Director Rare) nor on any other platform. May be because there isn’t much money in it? So no studio might want to invest time and energy in such a model. But my question is – Is there not even a small business opportunity in this which might not make crores but might make few lakhs per annum for some enterprise. May be it’s not there. Or maybe is it just the lack of initiative? I don’t know yet. But consider this, till few years back e-commerce in India existed on Indiatimes, Rediff, Sify etc but still consumers shied away; then Flipkart came which turned things around and changed the patron’s habits. So may be, we need a model that could prove that there is a market and there is money. This model might not be a margin game but could be a volume game.

And till such a miracle happens, I can wish Good Luck & Perseverance to all my fellow Independent Filmmakers who has FINISHED their film but their road has only BEGUN.
first published:April 07, 2012, 10:34 IST
last updated:April 07, 2012, 10:34 IST