It is the need of the hour to build the necessary skills for making and producing meaningful, yet entertaining cinema. As a nation, we lack sustained training in order to become cinema-professionals in the truest sense

An apt word to define the South Indian Media and Entertainment Industry is probably vast, it is copious in production and growth, pulsating with talent, ideas and possibilities, manifesting the richness, potential and range offered by the four regional languages and their diasporic following in and outside the sub-continent.

As per the FICCI Deloitte Report for 2013, the overall South Indian M&E industry is estimated to at Rs. 23,900crore and expected to grow at a CAGR of 16 per cent to reach Rs. 43,600crore by 2017. Television constitutes the dominating segment in the market and is currently estimated at Rs. 13,470 crore accounting for the largest share of the overall sector at 56 per cent. The ecosystem within the medium seems promising, poised to reap the benefits of digitisation and is slated to grow at a CAGR of 20 per cent over the next four years. That, in the currently unsettling financial climate, is certainly a figure which will lift sagging broadcasting spirits.

The print medium follows as a second with 28 per cent of the overall market in 2013 at Rs. 6,680 crore. With stakeholders holding fort amidst rapidly evolving digital alternatives and finding innovative ways to reach their readers, the industry will not decline.

Cinema, supported by a loyal and enduring fan base, is the third largest segment at Rs. 2,680 crore, with a share of 11 per cent in the south India entertainment pie. As someone very closely and intrinsically involved with the cinema industry, I am somewhat concerned that the contribution of cinema towards revenues from entertainment in the region is not exemplary, despite the loyal and enduring audience base and the pioneering use of technology. Our films not only account for over half of the total (approximately 65-70 per cent ) cinematic output in the country but also continue to remain inspiration for Bollywood to be made into remakes and seamlessly transcend geographical and linguistic barriers.

Cinematic greats like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, G. Aravindan, NTR, Mani Ratnam, A.R. Rahman and Ilayaraja are for me the torch-bearers in India’s celluloid history. Rajnikant, Chiranjeevi, Mammooty and Mohanlal have lit up Indian cinema on the global radar.

When Mani Ratnam directed me in the 1987-film Nayakan, I felt we were making cinematic magic — it went on to be included in Time magazine’s All-TIME 100 best movies of the world.

Even though an increasing number of Tamil and Telugu films are being dubbed for satellite broadcasting on national channels, what ails us still from becoming a force to be reckoned with on the world stage?

For me the key lacuna lies in building the necessary skills for making and producing meaningful, yet entertaining cinema. As a nation, we lack sustained training in order to become cinema-professionals in the truest sense. For our films to make the transition from being “good” to “edgy” we need stronger scripts and more institutes which teach writing for the movies as an area of specialization. Along with this, we need producers who understand the business of making cinema in its entirety – from seeking the right kind of funding through appropriate models and co-production avenues. Building effective partnerships with the film-maker and the promotional team and understanding the critical role technology plays in the making and marketing of a film. I am rather unambiguous in my view that our key business schools should make “management” of movies as an important part of their curriculum. Only then will we see innovation and entrepreneurial fervour pouring in the sector. At a more micro level, I also strongly feel the need to introduce vocational training courses such as intensive skill-building and certification for cinema technicians in our ITI’s.

The government, both at state and central levels, need to actively support the industry. Even though the Telugu film industry is the largestin India in terms of number of movies produced in a year and Andhra Pradesh has the highest number of cinema halls in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India India and the largest film studio complex in the world - Ramoji Film City - our cinema will only grow if there are better tax incentives (especially for the animation sector), easier clearances for shooting in our cities, more co-production treaties with other cinema-centric countries, focussed training schemes for the sector in our five-year plans, and more public-private partnerships to raise funds for producing quality films.

The South Indian Media and Entertainment industry holds great potential in leveraging vernacular content to enhance and sustain a robust eco-system. In the modern context, boundaries between entertainment platforms have fallen away with each feeding into the other and playing supplementing roles -- stakeholders in the south, armed with the added advantage of a powerful vernacular entertainment segment, should harness the potential of this digitally empowered environment to the fullest.

My primary objective while steering the FICCI Media and Entertainment Business Conclave (MEBC) — South, is to boost and maximize the growth of regional industries. In just four years, MEBC has become an enviable platform for the exchange of ideas and knowledge and a voice for industry concerns to be tabled for policy interventions.

The writer Kamal Haasan is Film Actor, Director, Producer and Chairman, FICCI-Media & Entertainment Committee - South