September 30, 2010, KOLKATA (Calcutta Tube): Join the grand world tour of Bengali Films along with the DATABAZAAR MEDIA VENTURES. Support Bengali Cinema by fighting piracy, buying legal DVDs from various retail stores and celebrate the true evolution of Bengali films into international ramifications. Read the Exclusive report by award winning film critic Shoma A. Chatterji.
Cinema anywhere in the world cannot exist in a vacuum. It is not just a commercial product that needs to be sold but more importantly, it has a social and cultural identity. It is rooted in a particular culture that at times, transcends regional barriers by virtue of the fact that the language of cinema is universal. With this logic, it is both possible and necessary for regional cinema to reach out to a world audience. This dream today has turned into reality.
Bengali cinema, since Satyajit Ray, has more or less remained confined within its regional world not only in terms of Bengali films being exhibited and distributed only in West Bengal but also in terms of restricted budgets resulting from a limitation in its market. But that scenario has changed forever, thanks to the enterprise and endeavour of Databazaar Media Ventures under the umbrella of Databazaar.com USA. Over the past few years, Databazaar Media Ventures has widened the horizons of Bengali cinema not only in terms of audience but also in terms of revenues going back to the producers of Bengali cinema.
[ReviewAZON display=”searchquery” query=”databazaar” count=”5″ category=”DVD” page=”1″ sort=”default”]Within the surprisingly short span of a year, DMV has successfully distributed nine Bengali films. Oney Seal, the dynamic founder and CEO of Databazaar Group was recently in Kolkata to meet with producers, directors and journalists within Bengali cinema not only to update them on DMV’s wide networking but more importantly, to hand over cheques of revenues collected from US screenings to filmmakers at a well-attended meet at the Conclave over the weekend. DMV was represented by Oney Seal, Founder & CEO of The Databazaar Group, Arijit Dutta, CEO of Priya Entertainments and a Director of DMV, S.P. Mukerjee, MD of Databazaar India and Sujoy Mukherjee, director and vice president of Databazaar India.
Aparna Sen whose latest film The Japanese Wife was taken over for distribution and exhibition by DMV in North America, present at the meet said, “In a way, Databazaar is a dream-come-true for Bengali cinema. There are film buffs all over the world and for years I have been looking for outlets for Bengali films abroad. With the screening of The Japanese Wife, I am getting responses from all over the world such as Germany where people who have seen the film are posting their views on facebook, thanks to Databazaar.”
Oney Seal who handed over the proceeds from the first 30-day screening of the first four films (‘Angshumaner Chhobi’, ‘The Japanese Wife’, ‘Jodi Ekdin’, ‘Ekti Tarar Khonje’) DMV had taken over, said, “This is the first time Bengali filmmakers are actually receiving an income in dollars from overseas. North America alone comprises around 3 million persons in the South Asian Diaspora with 300,000 Bengali-speaking people from India, and 300,000 people of Bangladeshi origin. Add to this 6+ million ‘foreign film’ and ‘world cinema’ viewers.” The total amount handed over to the producers crossed $20,000.
Seal brings more than 20 years of experience in both academia and business to the management team at Databazaar. His primary responsibilities include strategic direction for the entire group, leading the senior management team and being the defender and expander of the Databazaar business model. His primary responsibilities include strategic direction for the entire group, leading the senior management team and being the defender and expander of the Databazaar business model. Seal, on behalf of the company he has founded, is also concerned about the critical issue of piracy of Indian and specifically, Bengali films and films not Bengali but produced in Bengal. Based in Miami, Florida, DMV has a handsome target indeed.
Among DMV’s ventures is its home production of a Bengali film Dwando directed by Suman Ghosh who had won a National Award for his first film Padakkep. All films made in Bengal acquired by DMV such as Dwando, The Japanese Wife, Angshumaner Chhobi, Jodi Ek Din, Ekti Tarar Khonje, etc. can be ordered from all sites from where NRIs buy, rent or download films such as Netflix, Amazon, Best Buy, Target, iTunes and Blockbuster. The DMV model today is taking films to as many as 19,000 retail outlets in USA alone. This is in addition to getting a large audience for Bengali films in theatres across the USA. “This proves beyond doubt that we have implemented a winning business model that fulfils the wishes of both the Bengali film producer as well as the NRI film viewers in North America. Our efforts have also ensured that quality Bengali films will now reach the entire ‘foreign film’ viewing market in North America,” Seal said.
What is a secret of DMV’s success within such a short span? The answer is simple. Its sophisticated technological inputs cut down on marketing and distribution costs in a significant manner. DMV has introduced a movie channel in the USA through the Internet Protocol route. DMV is currently committed to more films from India being viewed in USA and Canada thanks to the growing popularity of IP TV. “We are concentrating on online streaming as its popularity gives us the opportunity to exploit this medium. I am convinced that some films made by contemporary filmmakers have enough power in them to find acceptance beyond Indian shores. Add to this their ability to pierce the language barrier that will bring their films a large non-Indian viewership.” Seal adds.
DMV is playing an effective role in increasing the revenue gap between costs and revenue that ails Bengali films by bridging the gap between Bengali cinema and the huge North American market that remained untapped till DMV made its entry. “Thus, Bengali filmmakers are happy raking in the profits and North American viewers are happy watching their films without having to move out of their geographical space. The need was to justify the substantial investment made into Bengali films not only to bring them into the mainstream American market but also to promote these films well,” says Seal.
Among others present at the DMV Meet in Kolkata was Arijit Dutta, Director, Priya Entertainment and a key member of DMV. Dutta looks into the content and acquisition of DMV and hopes that the gap between production costs and domestic sales that has been the bane of Bengali cinema for many years will now be suitably addressed. Others of note were Aparna Sen, Apurv Nagpal, CEO, Saregama Ltd., Suvojit Roy of Orion Entertainments, Sumita Bhattacharya of T. Sarkar Productions and Jeet Banerjee of Screenplay Films.
Cinema made in Bengal, thanks to DMV will cease to exist within a regional straitjacketed space with limited audience-pull and restricted revenues. The journey across the world has just begun. The destiny of Bengali cinema is about to be re-written.
Shoma A. Chatterji