In conversation Nina Lath Gupta, Managing Director, NFDC speaks to SUDHISH KAMATH on the Government film agency’s makeover and futuristic moves
U ntil 2006, the National Film Development Corporation or NFDC as we know it, was generating a Rs. 12 crore turnover. Within five years of taking charge, Nina Lath Gupta, Managing Director of NFDC, has turned the ship around with rampant modernisation of structures and system. NFDC generated a Rs.255-crore turnover this year (2011-2012). Before another hectic day at NFDC’s Film Bazaar, Goa, that runs parallel to the International Film Festival of India, Nina Gupta sits down for a chat.
This is a rather young and modern NFDC, no one would think this is a Government agency looking at your team or the swanky new office.
Present day is always modern, isn’t it? (laughs) Every institution has to adapt to time. The vision remains intrinsic but the modalities have to change and we felt the need too. To change mindsets, you have to change the environment. There has to be a greater degree of transparency and accountability. Accountability always starts at the top because you have to set an example. We enjoy working together, it’s a great team.
What is your vision for NFDC in the current environment of star-driven 100-crore blockbusters?
It’s always been star-driven, hasn’t it? We are very clear in our minds that it is not our job to compete. Our job is to supplement the industry and to meet the gaps. NFDC is not a big institution if you were to look at the numbers. But the fact of the matter is that NFDC supports cinema that is not supported anywhere else. Films such as Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron , Salaam Bombay , Mirch Masala or Rudaali would have never been made if NFDC had not produced those films because they would not have got funding in the private sector. But those kind of films today do get funding in the private sector. So if someone’s willing to finance such films, we are more than happy. That’s the thinking behind setting up the co-production market. In a country that makes a thousand films, we make eight films a year with our limited resources. Promotion doesn’t mean only production, it begins with development of screenwriting. This is something we saw in 2006. So we set up the screenwriter’s lab.
Do you feel there is a need to set up alternative revenue models for arthouse cinema given that it cannot compete with publicity spends of the mainstream?
What is distribution? Distribution means that I should be able to bring my film out to the maximum number of people. How I do it is a mechanism I have to devise according to the need of the film and according to our budget. We have a catalogue of 300 films. The commercial exhibition circuit is not geared to handle these kind of films, so we cannot do the kind of spends that commercial films do. Somebody would pay Rs. 50 to watch Anhey Gorey Da Daan but they wouldn’t spend Rs. 300 to watch it in a multiplex. So there’s home video, VoD platform, satellite... Theatrical release is just one week but we have films that are talked about even 30 years later. When we released Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron weeks ago, it ran to housefull. That is the kind of cinema that NFDC is supposed to promote and nurture. Cinema that will be an intrinsic part of celluloid history.
NFDC’s Film Bazaar seems to have spawned quite a few success stories over the past few years.
We have had some successes from the very beginning. The viewing room, for instance, is always full with festival programmers and buyers because it showcases the latest in Indian cinema.
What further support are you seeking from the Government?
We needed to clean up the past. Only three per cent of our manpower had skill sets that were geared to deal with the needs of the industry at this stage. We had a huge loan liability. We’ve come a really long way. Change never happens overnight. The last five years have been about defining those areas that needed change. You have to whittle down to rebuild and start afresh.
We are very clear in our minds that it is not our job to compete. We are there to supplement the industry and to meet the gaps