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‘Maid’ To Order

Friday, January 11, 2013

A low-budget, under-promoted film called Gangoobai, directed by Priya Krishnaswamy,  is also releasing this week, alongside the much-hyped biggie Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola. It has been produced by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), and triggers off a few thoughts.

It’s good to see the NFDC back in action under the current Managing Director Neena Lath Gupta.

The NFDC was the harbinger of the new cinema movement and cineastes still remember such masterpieces as Mirch Masala and Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron with fond nostalgia.

Soon enough the NFDC kind of film became a kind of stigma, because some of the films that came out of the art or parallel cinema movement were too boring for  audiences to relate to them, even if they wanted to support good cinema.

Some of the bright, young filmmakers coming out of the Film & Television Institute got a chance to make their first films with the NFDC, and that was a huge service to Indian cinema.

However, the idealistic dreams of doing battle with mainstream Bollywood came to naught.  Even at its worst commercial cinema could attract audiences.

NFDC’s biggest failure was not being able to construct small art house cinema, because small films could not be given the same of marketing and distribution that commercial cinema appropriated for itself.

When NFDC decided to get back into the game after a long lull, it went about it in the right way, by organising script labs. Unfortunately, Bollywood, now controlled by corporate structures had the same ‘bound script’ idea; they also set up divisions for alternative cinema, recognising the growing multiplex market of educated young people, who could not always be relied on to patronise big-budget films.  Quality became the buzzword.

Everyone agrees that this the right time for encouraging fresh ideas and creativity and whoever tries to think out of the box is not automatically shot down.  This is the right time for NFDC to resume its role of nurturing good cinema, but it now difficult to compete with the marketing clout of the big production houses.  It is also very tough to get the right slots at the multiplexes. The best scripts are not coming to the NCPA first, because other avenues with better resources are available.

For the NFDC team with its heart in the right place, the challenge now is not to build art house cinemas but to come up with films that would appeal to a large section of the audience looking offbeat film. And then innovative marketing strategies will have to be thought of, since money is in short supply. Luckily, today there’s social media and word of mouth replaced by word of twitter that can build up quality films as well as it can cut down bad Bollywood films, with lightning speed.

It’s with these advantages anddisadvantages Gangoobai enters the battlefield...  may the best film win.

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