Bengali Film Producers Finally See North American Revenue

Sept 19, 2010 (CalcuttaTube): Databazaar Media Ventures, the US Gateway for Bengali films, presented the producers of the first four Bengali movies (‘Angshumaner Chhobi’, ‘The Japanese Wife’, ‘Jodi Ekdin’, ‘Ekti Tarar Khonje’) to be released in North America, with producers’ share checks totaling over US dollars twenty thousand. What is remarkable is that this represented only about 30 days of revenue from the US market.

DMV has in a short time already acquired and brought to mainstream US distribution nine quality Bengali films. The ceremony to pay the checks for the 30-day revenue was a resounding validation of DMV’s unique business model. The ceremony was attended by actress-filmmaker Aparna Sen and CEO Apurv Nagpal of Saregama Ltd., Suvojit Roy of Orion Entertainments, Sumita Bhattacharya of  T. Sarkar Productions and Jeet Banerjee of Screenplay Films. 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.

Databazaar Media Ventures is a part of the Databazaar group of companies, a multinational technology group headquartered in Miami, USA. In the opening remarks about the organizations, Oney said, “We have a very complex business model. The reason we came in into media, is because we saw the gap in revenue of Bengali films. We also saw that there is a huge demand for Bengali films among the North American NRI audience. We have developed a very unique business model that bridges this gap.”

Oney Seal-CEO Databazaar Media Ventures

DMV has so far acquired over nine films that are being screened in the USA and are available in retail and online stores in North America like the Target, Best Buy, iTunes for buying, renting and downloading. DMV does not take all Bengali films at this point. The organization has a film review board that reviews to see if a film is ‘apt’ for the US market. According to Oney Seal, Databazaar currently picks 12 to 15 quality films every year. DMV’s upcoming projects are Shukno Lanka, Raja Sen’s Laboratory with the latter to be released in the US before it does in India.

DMV spends around 35,000 to $50,000 USD for promoting each individual title in the US. “It is not just about distributing the movie, but also about making people aware about their availability in the US. This is our major challenge. This expense comes out of our share of revenue, not the producers’. This is another uniqueness of our business model.

“Piracy has been a cause for loss of revenue for all filmmakers. We are spending a significant amount of dollars in fighting piracy in the US. We saw a lot of pirated DVDs in case of ‘The Japanese Wife’ as the DVDs were released in India when the film was theatrically released. But, we have been very successful in fighting piracy using the methods that we are.”

“We have just launched our own channel on the IPTV network for which we will be open to taking almost all Bengali films. Our TV channel is now open to movies of all Indian languages,” said Oney.

When DMV screened ‘The Japanese Wife’ in the US, 50 percent of the audience were non-Indians, as explained by Oney Seal. “It is not just nonresident Bengalees or nonresident Indians we are trying to reach. According to our estimate, in North America the foreign film viewing population is six million. That is the market we are trying to encourage and in our theatrical screenings, this market is responding really well. It does not matter what is the language of the film. But if the theme is universal, it appeals to the foreign film viewing market. And this one of the criteria that makes a film a ‘quality’ one and that is what DMV is looking for.”

Aparna Sen
Aparna Sen

The Japanese Wife’ director Aparna Sen thanked Databazaar Media Ventures for helping Bengali films go international. Sen who is now working on her next film ‘Iti Mrinalini’ said, “Databazaar Media Ventures in a way has made our dream come true. I always believed that there are takers of good cinema, if you took into account all the people in the world, as there are movie buffs all over the world.”

The actress turned filmmaker said that when she made wanted her film ‘Mr. and Mrs. Iyer’ to be released in theatres in university towns, it was released it in places like Edison, where completely commercial Hindi films are seen.

“DMV is the answer to what I have been looking for. For ‘The Japanese Wife’ I have been getting a lot of response. I get a lot of comments on the Facebook, for instance. People from Germany have been seeing the film. I have always wanted to make an international Bengali film and maybe we are on our way there. I hope we are there through Databazaar.

“When I made ‘Mr. and Mrs. Iyer’, I had heard that Americans, not non-resident Bengalees, were giving them as Christmas and New Year presents. So there are takers for stories that have universal appeal. So I do not see why we could forge ahead very soon and very well,” said Sen.

Arijit Dutta, director of Priya Entertainment, is hopeful about the future of Bengali films as the market is opening wide abroad. “There have always been a gap of 50 to 60 lakh rupees in revenue of Bengali films and Databazaar Media Ventures is looking right into this matter. Very few films got international exposure at this level which is a dream of all Bengali filmmakers because of their critical and quality presentation, in depth thinking. Good films are not recognized in the home territory by their own people. At least in the foreign market more and more people are seeing what the makers want. We tried to take this initiative a long time back, but it never happened.

“The revenue coming in from the United States is actually going to be much more than the business the films have done here theatrically. This is a great start. With this check giving event we hope that more and more industry people are made aware that this possible and they coordinate their releases and publicities so that the films get a global audience.

“World cinema has a great scope. Films made by directors like Aparna Sen, Atanu Ghosh belong to genres that have a great scope to be positioned as world cinema. It is our films, but they have a different language which takes Bengal across the borders, to the world and does certain cashing of the films.”

The first ‘dollar payments’ which were made to the producers of Bengali films here are the revenue acquired by screening of the films in different associations in US, online streaming, rentals, downloads etc. Arijit said that the industry is looking forward to the day when these movies will be theatrically released like normal films and hopes DMV gives it a thought.

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Shrabanti Basu

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