After an intensive campaign calling for State support for independent films, the Government relents, but filmmakers aren’t really excited

Last week, Prasar Bharati, the Broadcasting Corporation of India, invited proposals from National Award-winning films and films that have been screened in 16 international film festivals produced after 2000 (see box) for telecast on Doordarshan, offering Rs. 25 lakh for the television premiere of the film and Rs. 15 lakh for already premiered films under the brand ‘Best of Indian Cinema’.

Though it does seem like a moral victory for 62 independent filmmakers from 11 languages, who have been campaigning for State support over the last year-and-a-half, the irony is that many of these campaigners do not stand to gain — because Doordarshan cannot screen adult films, and many National Award-winning films are adult in content.

Finding a space

Filmmaker Onir, who initiated the signature campaign and petitioned the Director General of Doordarshan urging the institution to support independent cinema in India, says, “The idea was to make sure that indie films too get some space as the satellite rights for indie films were shrinking and there was literally no way to keep making these films without monetary loss. There was a time when Doordarshan produced films such as Salaam Bombay, and suddenly such endeavours were stopped. Since we believe that money making should not be at the cost of good cinema, we wanted Doordarshan to support our films.”

After discussions, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting also promised the filmmakers that funds were set aside to build government theatres in all State capitals that will be used to screen independent films.

The Mahadev Road Theatre in Delhi will be the first that will start functioning, added Onir, who also hoped that Doordarshan would start a late night slot for screening adult films that have won National Awards.

Tripurari Sharan, Director General, Doordarshan, speaking to The Hindu, said that no such slot had been planned. “We cannot please everyone. What is the point of showing Best of Indian Cinema in a late night slot when the idea is to promote it? If the law says we cannot screen adult films on national television, how can we bypass it?”

Two-time National Award winner Ashvin Kumar, director of Inshallah Football and Inshallah Kashmir, says, “If kids are watching television late at night, it is a parenting issue. You cannot rule out an entire category of films. Most award-winning films and documentaries will be adult in nature because they are documenting what is happening around us. History textbooks and channels are full of violent content about wars. If there is merit in the film, the government needs to purchase the film and figure out the certification. Why should the filmmaker be punished?”

A major hurdle

Q, the controversial filmmaker of the award-winning documentary Love In India and the critically acclaimed Gandu, observes, “The censor system is still a major hurdle, but this definitely is a brilliant step towards providing a support system to alternative cinema. But I don’t have any high hopes about our system. It is a perfect synergy of hyper morality and protective nationalist tendency. We need a pragmatic sustainable model for our survival. We need State support so that the spirit of dissent can continue.”

With Doordarshan bound by regulations of the Central Board of Film Certification, independent filmmakers are hoping for an amendment to the Cinematograph Act, 1952 that has the provisions for certification. Sources tell us that the more liberal of the CBFC board members have been pushing for the creation of a late-night slot. But until intent translates into action, independent filmmakers with adult content will have very few avenues left for revenues.

Film festivals

Cannes; Berlin; Venice; Toronto; Locarno; London; Karlovy Vary;

Nantes (Festival des 3 Continents); Rotterdam; Fribourg; Munich;

Busan; Hong Kong; Tokyo; Rome and Sydney

(Applications can be downloaded from www.ddindia.gov.in and submitted before July 1, 2013)

(With inputs from Udhav Naig)