Why do small budget, offbeat films rarely make their way to the multiplexes in Hyderabad?

Sometime in May 2012, Ashvin Kumar was upbeat about his film The Forest getting a pan-Indian release. In 2009, he had showcased the film at international film festivals and hoped his Academy Award nomination and a National Award for his previous short film Little Terrorist would open doors for The Forest in India. It turned out to be a long, harrowing wait till PVR Director’s Rare picked up the film for distribution. The Forest released as scheduled in Mumbai and Delhi among a few other cities but Hyderabad proved tricky, with most cinema halls being taken up for big budget Telugu and Hindi film releases.

2012 was significant for the rise of Indian independent cinema with quite a few of them making it to multiplexes in select cities for a limited number of shows. The box office figures of these films may be nowhere close to that of mainstream releases, yet, the step was a significant one. Hyderabad, with its vibrant film industry, proved to be a tough market to crack for independent filmmakers. While we got to see Bedabrata Pain’s Chittagong, Faiza Ahmed Khan’s Supermen of Malegaon and Sudhish Kamath’s Good Night Good Morning, we missed a number of independent films and some very good ones at that. Karan Gour’s brilliant Kshay, a riveting and disturbing story shot in black and white, got a blink-and-miss one show screening in the city.

Hyderabad has eight multiplexes, each with four to five screens, and yet small films that don’t come from the stables of an established production house are left high and dry.

Shiladitya Bora, head of PVR Director’s Rare, which distributed several award-winning independent films last year, says these days Hyderabad doesn’t figure in the scheme of things when the Director’s Rare team plans release schedules for independent films and documentaries. “Hyderabad has one of the best movie-watching audience, but given the number of big regional film releases, it’s difficult to find slots for smaller films,” he says. “I tried very hard to release at least six to eight independent films in Hyderabad last year but it didn’t happen. We faced a similar situation in Bangalore earlier. The situation eased after we acquired a new property.”

Srikanth, general manager of Prasads multiplex, feels any offbeat, small budget film in Hindi, English and Telugu faces a similar situation. “These films need a certain exhibition time for word-of-mouth publicity to pick up and attract a certain section of audience that patronises such films,” says Srikanth, general manager of Prasadz. Tanikella Bharani’s Midhunam is running its fourth week at this multiplex. Recently, Digiquest’s Seven Days in Slow Motion, directed by Umakanth Thumrugoti, also had a one-week run here.

Srikanth confesses it’s tough to give space for niche cinema. “When there are big-budget, star-studded films, one cannot allot three shows for smaller films. What is possible is one show in the smaller audi with a seating capacity of 224.”

Meanwhile, for those keen on watching the indies of 2012, (box) grab a copy of the DVD through online portals. We stress on DVDs and not illegal downloads or YouTube because that way, the indie filmmaker stands to gain and in the long run, we may get to see and hear a few more original voices in Indian cinema.

Some films we missed

Hemant Gaba’s Shuttlecock Boys

Sandeep Mohan’s Love, Wrinkle Free

The Last Act, a collaborative film made by 12 filmmakers

Aamir Bashir’s Harud

Digitally re-mastered Jaane Bhi do Yaaron

Sharat Katariya’s 10ml Love

Prashant Nair’s Delhi in a Day

Srinivas Sunderrajan’s The Untitled Karthik Krishnan Project

Ashvin Kumar’s The Forest

What to look forward to in 2013

Hansal Mehta’s Shahid, starring Rajkumar Yadav, is a poignant account of the life of slain human rights activist and lawyer Shahid Azmi.

Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus is about a photographer, a monk and a stock broker on a philosophical journey, exploring questions of identity, justice, beauty, meaning and death.

Vasan Bala’s Peddlers, screened at International Critics’ Week, Cannes, stars Gulshan Devaiah, Kriti Malhotra, Nimrat Kaur and Siddhath Menon. Peddlers narrates the story of two guys caught in Mumbai’s drug trade and a cop who hunts them down.

Celluloid Man, a documentary on P.K. Nair, founder of National Film Archives of India, by Shivendra Singh Dungapur.

PVR Director’s Rare will also be releasing Pune 52 and Marathi film Balak Palak, apart from organising a festival of films by Wong Kar-Wai and a special release of Cinema Paradiso.

Of the above mentioned films, we’ll have to wait and see how many make it to Hyderabad.