Future Belongs to   Independent Films

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Many good works in India do not get theatres because the system belongs to hardcore commercial houses. However, digital platforms have empowered filmmakers to explore new ways, believes HariViswanath

As an independent Indian filmmaker, sometimes I feel very insecure because a large number of people and a section of media believe that, in a diversified cultural mosaic like India, the audience welcome only the so-called commercial main stream films.

However, I believe that the independent films are also commercial products which are consumed by the consumers (film-goers) from the outlets (theatres). But if a commodity does not even make it to the outlets, how can you be so sure that the consumers only demand the so-called commercial big house products? I wish there was a healthy competition between these two kinds of films, so that the audience had the choiceto select their movies according to their tastes.

As far as my venture Radiopetti is concerned, I would say it’s not a complete success. I was very happy to get a world premiere in Busan and win the Best Audience Award, that too for my debut film. Apart from that, the film won four more awards at various film festivals and nine official selections. It was made available on Netflix (first Tamil film on Netflix before its theatrical release), itunes and Google Play. But all said and done, since the film didn’t get the theatrical release in its home ground, I still feel incomplete.

Being a jury at IFFI (International Film Festival of India)2017,was a very good experience. I enjoyed the cinema as an art without the barrier of language, as we got films in Indian Panorama from all the states of India. I could experience the rich culture of India and got to know how small and beautiful things are told by other fellow film directors.

My new short film is based on a concept I developed while I was working as a team leader in an IT company. In an office, so many people work for hours together and while they are there, they laugh, cry, experience humiliation, insult or get praised. Sometimes they feel that there is no one who is watching them going through all these emotions. But I thought that there is one witness – a computer monitor– that watches everything. But since it is an inanimate being, it cannot react. This thought gave me an idea, what if the monitor could talk! Based on this idea, I have made this short film in Hindi, Monitor, which is a story being told from the point of view of a computer monitor. India is the most prolific movie producer nation in the world. As part of this film production market, every independent film maker is like an isolated island. As an independent film maker, my first work was Radiopetti. It received applause at international film festivals, but shockingly I could not get a theatrical release of my film in India because of several reasons. However, after participating as a jury of Indian Panorama at IFFI last year, I found I am not the only film maker who has suffered this release issue. Many good, thought provoking artistic works could not be released in Indian theatres because the releasing system belongs to the hard core commercial houses. They make the hits and flops. So, an independent film maker, in almost every part of India, suffers in almost the same way as I did.

Our Constitution gives us the right of freedom of expression.Yes, it’s there. Although a strict certification board is there. But, if the final creation cannot reach to the audience and this becomes a phenomenon, it makes a creator unhappy and frustrated. But having said that, I also believe that good Indian cinema of the future belongs to independent film makers.

India is a huge country with a vast diversity in talent and the emerging digital world has made filmmaking easier. Now anyone can shoot using their mobile or any digital camera. In this digital era making a film could be easier, but making good quality films is quite difficult. Besides that, showing your film on the right platform to the audience is another important aspect that one needs to learn and understand.

The best thing about the emerging digital era is that filmmakers need not have to think about the traditional way of theatrical release alone. Now we have so many digital platforms (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc) to showcase our films to our audience around the world.

(The writer is the maker of 2015 Tamil film Radiopetti which won widespread accolades at multiple international film festivals across the globe)

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