The session on regional cinema had a list of industry veterans pondering over the issues and challenges facing the regional film industry in the country. The brainstorming session focused on how language is hampering growth of regional cinema inspite of the availability of quality talent and content in plenty.
The session, moderated by Arijit Dutta of Priya Entertainment, had speakers like the eminent Marathi film director and actor Mahesh Kothare, L Suresh from the Tamil film industry, Arvind Trivedi of the Gujarati film industry, the popular Bhojpuri film actor Manoj Tiwari, and Tekwani of the Sindhi film industry. The speakers pondered over how the regional film industry can be promoted and can do great business.
While the speakers differed in their views on a number of issues, all of them were unanimous in their opinion that the main problem plaguing the regional cinema is not the absence of quality content or talent pool, but a serious lack of effective marketing and promotional activities.
Claiming that the Marathi cinema is the cradle of the film industry in the country which was nurtured by Dada Saheb Phalke, eminent Marathi film director and actor Mahesh Kothare said, “It has come a long way since then. In 2001, Dolby digital sound was introduced in Marathi films for the first time in the country. A few years back, Shwaas, a Marathi film directed by Sandeep Sawant won the Golden Lotus Award. It was after 50 years that the Golden Lotus Award was given to a Marathi film”.
Touching upon the problems of the regional films in general and Marathi films in particular, Kothare said the biggest problem facing the regional films industry is the entry of multiplexes. “While on the one hand multiplexes have brought back the elite to cinema halls, when it comes to the Marathi films, they are a big threat. The problem is that though the Maharashtra government exempted the Marathi films from entertainment taxes as part of its efforts to promote the industry, this is tax exemption is not applicable to multiplexes on the one hand and on the other they cinema chains do not want to show regional language films,” pointed out Kothare. Kothare also pointed out that even though Marathi cinemas have huge market overseas among the expat audiences, again finally it is not viable. For instance, in Britain, these films have to pay a hefty censorship fee of £2,000.
Another growing regional film industry is the Bhojpuri cinema. “We are doing very good business now, which is clear from the fact that even some leading Bollywood stars like Mithun Chakraborty and Shatrughan Sinha are acting in Bhojpuri films today. But the main problem with our films is that they are not properly planned,” said popular Bhojpuri actor Manoj Tiwari, who added that another problem was that while male actors were keen on doing Bhojpuri films, the same was not the case with actresses, who were not interested at all in such films. He concluded his talk with an appeal to leading actresses to come forward and take up Bhojpuri films as there was no dearth of money in the industry.
Leading producer, distributor and exporter of Tamil films L Suresh began his speech by saying that the Southern film fraternity was no less than Bollywood in terms of budget, quality or quantity or production capabilities. Citing the examples of Rajnikant-starrer ‘Chandramukhi’, he said the film grossed up a hefty Rs 80 crore from the Box Office. He also buttressed his statement with the example of another Rajnikant blockbuster ‘Shivaji: The Boss’, which was released in 800 cinemas across the country.
“Regional cinema is big. We have quality product. But it depends on the individual producer to market the film abroad. My only demand is that the Central Government should give equal importance to the regional cinema. If we have proper industry forums, all regional films can do much bigger business,” Suresh concluded.
Contrary to the general lack of awareness about the Sindhi film industry, Ramesh Tekwani, representing this industry, pointed out, “There is a significant market for Sindhi films today. But the problem is that they need to be marketed well. A beginning could be made by storage players like Moser Baer, as these films do not have a concentrated audience.”