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NFDC has plans for Indian cinema

As the eighth Film Bazaar begins in Goa on November 20, National Film Development Corporation’s head, Nina Lath Gupta shares the blueprint of the institute’s plans for the future

In the recent few years, films like The Lunchbox, Qissa, and Miss Lovely have made Indian audiences take note of stories that the Indian celluloid is capable of telling but hadn’t been told due to their lack of commercial viability. As National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) looks ahead at the eighth edition of Film Bazaar (a co-production and distribution market for the South Asian region), we caught up with Nina Lath Gupta, managing director of NFDC, who has not only been responsible for a sea change at the institute but also in the Indian film industry.

Nina Lath Gupta
Nina Lath Gupta. Pic/Satyajit Desai

Selling Film Bazaar
"We set up Film Bazaar because we would meet a lot of people from other countries — producers, buyers, festival programmers, for instance, and they would tell us that they would like to look at Indian films but they wouldn’t know where to start looking," shares Lath Gupta. Since 2006, when she took up office in Worli, she has aided the burgeoning of Indian cinema, especially on an international level.

Films such as Lunchbox have been creating an international stir while giving credibility  to NFDC
Films such as Lunchbox have been creating an international stir while giving credibility to NFDC

In its eighth year of organising the forum, Lath Gupta concedes, "NFDC’s growth has been very organic and we focus where we see a gap in the industry. Thus, a new section is introduced every year." This year, there is a Romance Screenwriters’ Lab to encourage plots centred on the idea of romance and   on women. Speaking of focus, she shares, "We haven’t paid sufficient attention to the business potential of shooting across India. State governments need to be sensitised on the value of bringing in a shoot to their state. For instance, 3 Idiots played a huge role in encouraging opportunities in Ladakh."

Miss Lovely is one of NFDC’s applause-worthy films that was released earlier this year
Miss Lovely is one of NFDC’s applause-worthy films that was released earlier this year

A growing audience
Speaking of untapped potential, talk veers to NFDC’s future plans. Though Indian films are winning accolades at reputed festivals like Cannes, there are films that are often canned for lack of their commercial value. When quizzed on how India can change, the 49-year-old shares, "Developing the audiences has been my dream. A mature audience is open to different kinds of cinema. Our audience, which is sensitive, has not had access to this cinematic diversity," resulting in a failure to build a market.

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is one of the most reputable films NFDC has produced
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is one of the most reputable films NFDC has produced

Marking films  
Lath Gupta unravels that NFDC has built an 'exciting' plan and has approached governments to "introduce film as a medium of communication, knowledge and entertainment to people, especially in educational institutions". Cinema studies is also on the radar, she adds.

The government body is yet learning from its oversights in the past as distribution  weighs on the mind of the articulate ex-IRS officer. She feels that NFDC as an institution should have encouraged it, given, "Every year, 200 films suffer from the want of distribution in terms of avenues," she reveals, adding, "We have done some small things; for instance, we set up the Cinemas of India distribution table and launched a lot of DVDs to our immense success. Our Video on Demand platform has been set up and now, we want to scale it up."

Don't ignore the documentary

"India is not doing enough feature-length documentaries. One looks at documentaries as corporate films, or public utility service films or films that give information or archive artistes. Finance for documentaries is a challenge. Distribution mechanisms for it are virtually nil. With digital, broadband and Internet, things will change. Today’s kids want to watch documentaries," says Lath Gupta.

Mumbai to get a film cultural centre
“The ability to go beyond a film and transcend a film is important. As a viewer, as you can head to Prithvi, where you get to meet the play’s director; you should also have a film cultural centre to meet the faces behind the film, and understand film as a medium,” emphasises Lath Gupta, relating that one centre has already been set up in Chennai, where the Chennai International Film Festival’s screenings will happen.

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