India offers potential market and audience for NRI filmmakers

India offers potential market and audience for NRI filmmakers. Identity crisis and a confused sense of belonging are not the only factors that prompt non-resident Indian filmmakers keep India on their minds while making movies.

[ReviewAZON asin=”1858563291″ display=”inlinepost”]New Delhi, Jan 6 (IANS) Identity crisis and a confused sense of belonging are not the only factors that prompt non-resident Indian filmmakers keep India on their minds while making movies. India offers a ready market, big audience and a mainstream arts platform.

“The dynamics of making movies abroad is different from those in Bollywood,” acclaimed NRI British filmmaker and film writer Nasreen Munni Kabir told IANS at the Pravasi Film Festival 2010 that ended here Wednesday.

“We have to make movies on smaller budgets with less-known stars and almost with no songs and dances because our movies are naturalistic. But these productions are finding distributors and a steady audience in India,” said Kabir, whose documentaries, “Bismillah of Benaras” and “Inner World of Shah Rukh Khan”, were screened at the festival.

The 50-minute documentary on Bismillah Khan, the Shehnai legend from Varanasi, has him looking back at life with humour and humility.

[ReviewAZON asin=”1557836493″ display=”inlinepost”]London-based filmmaker Sangeeta Datta is trying to forge links between the cinema industry in Kolkata and in London with her debut movie “Life Goes On”, which is woven around the family of a immigrant Bengali doctor in London.

“I realised that the Bengali diaspora story had not been told well in Britain, barring Monica Ali’s ‘Brick Lane’. The story would be easy to identify with even in India because of the migration of hundreds of Bengali professionals post-partition to the West. The narrative straddles two continents,” Datta said.

“The framework for reference has changed in NRI cinema,” said the London-based filmmaker.

“The reference is Bollywood now. Our films are influenced not just by outside compulsions, but also takes in what the market has to offer and what it needs,” Datta said, addressing a women NRI filmmakers’ forum, “India on My Mind”, that was attended by Deepa Mehta, Nasreen Munni Kabir and Aruna Vasudev at the festival Monday.

[ReviewAZON asin=”B00007JQTG” display=”inlinepost”]Even the viewership has changed, observed the London-based filmmaker. “We are now completely geared towards the diaspora and ethnic communities so that the films find ready audiences in India, US and UK.”

A ready-to-serve NRI cinema now has “all the ingredients of the formula-stuck-fare”, said Pankaj Dubey, co-director of the Pravasi Film Festival 2010.

“The most prevalent recipe of an NRI cinema is the character of a confused youngster, parents with overcooked nostalgia, friends with crooked screw-like relationship, an Indian wedding bash, racial slur and patriotic realisation,” felt Dubey, a former journalist who had launched Channel 7 in India.

Another reason why overseas Indian filmmakers are increasingly looking to India to market their movies is last year’s economic meltdown.

“The advertising money in UK and US has declined and it’s no longer profitable. In India, the chances of an NRI filmmaker finding a producer or distributor are more than in the West,” Munni Kabir said.

In the last two decades of the 20th century, “a new movement began in the mass media with the work of south Asian diaspora filmmakers that have enabled Indian NRI cinema become global”, Dubey said.

“Asian films no longer lurk outside the periphery, but have entered the artistic mainstream with the stupendous success of films like Gurinder Chadda’s ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ in 2002. She was the first Asian woman to have made inroads into the mainstream public sphere of the West with her movies that give class, gender, race and focus on the positions of the marginalised outsiders.”

Another example of the NRI success story in all markets is Mira Nair, whose movies like “Salaam Bombay”, “The Mississippi Masala”, “The Monsoon Wedding” and “The Namesake” grossed formidable revenues both in India and abroad.

Canada-based filmmaker Deepa Mehta, most of whose acclaimed productions like “Fire”, “Water” and “Earth” – with Indian themes – have fared well at the box office, quotes Salman Rushdie to say: “All my works will be towards India and away from India”.

Her new project, “Komagata Maru”, the tragic story of an immigrant Indian ship which had landed in Vancouver in 1914 to be turned back to India – will begin in 2014, the centenary of the tragedy.

By Madhusree Chatterjee

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