Hot Tuesday morning, people rushing from registration desks to booths to conference rooms to VIP lounges to media centres... The feel of Frames was unshakeable. Nothing seemed different – from the manner in which the booths were lined up to every delegate moving around with named badges to the well-rehearsed style in which the FICCI Frames team made the stage arrangements, seating arrangements, made speakers and delegates comfortable... It gave a sense of déjà vu – you were there, you had done that. And yet, FICCI Frames manages to look as important as ever.
FICCI Frames 2010 kicked off with a full house on March 16, 2010, and much of the credit for that can be given to the eminent speakers that sat on the stage for the inaugural session. From the likes of Harsh C Mariwala (Senior VP – FICCI and Chairman and Managing Director); Louise Sams (EVP and General Counsel, Turner Broadcasting System Inc & President, Turner Broadcasting System) and Jim Gianopulos (Chairman & CEO, Fox Filmed Entertainment) to Yash Chopra (Chairman – FICCI Entertainment Committee), Karan Johar (Co-Chairman FICCI Entertainment Committee) and Shah Rukh Khan – the stage was indeed sizzling.
Mariwala set the tone when he spoke about the significant year that 2009 was for the Indian film industry on the global stage with instances like AR Rahman bringing home the Oscars or Shah Rukh Khan’s doctorate or the unprecedented success of an Indian movie (‘My Name is Khan’) in the international markets. He spoke of digitisation changing the face of the industry, edutainment taking shape in television and movies alike, and the corporatisation of the Indian media industry. Yash Chopra, who agreed to each of his points, also reminded everyone that the year 2013 would mark 100 years since the first Indian movie was made. He said, “I call upon the media and entertainment fraternity and the Government of India to come together and unite for an event that has never been seen before to celebrate this milestone.”
The industry leader spoke on the crisis that piracy had created for filmmakers, and stated that even though piracy had gone down, it was still a thriving menace that needed immediate attention. Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan received a lot of applause when he replied to Yash Chopra, promising the Government’s support for all policy matters that would help the Indian film industry grow. He said, “The document, policy papers and other initiatives from FICCI are steps in the right direction to organise this industry. On our part, there are laws against piracy, and now we have to enforce them better, which is something we will do.”
Not Hollywood Investment, but Knowledge: Shah Rukh Khan
Last on the stage, but direct to the head – only King Khan could have taken a view of the industry that both challenged and advised the industry leaders. Khan began by painting the background picture – the key market that India has become for reasons like its economic growth, the untapped potential of digitisation and the fact that entertainment was the fourth essential for Indians (after roti, kapda aur makaan). Khan gave examples of companies like UTV and Big Pictures to indicate the international plans that Indian companies were working on today.
He made the audience sit up when he questioned the intelligence of the word ‘crossover’. He said, “I am averse to that word – what does crossover mean? To me, it means nothing at all. I don’t understand anything from it. Because, if there was such a word, our smarter cousins, Hollywood, would have cracked it much earlier and would have made movies in America that would have taken over the Indian market.” Khan stressed that what we should instead look for was quid pro quo relations. “We must stop being stubborn about our kind of film making,” he stated. He urged filmmakers to stop being obsessed about three-hour long formats and learn from Hollywood, “they have been here longer”, he said. He advised on treating screenplay writing and movie marketing as a science and not art or regular. He insisted, “It is not Hollywood investment that we need, it is their knowledge that makes the difference.”
Local, Global – International Cos making their mark in India
Louise Sams took the audience through Turner Entertainment’s journey in India since 1991 with CNN. She said, “In a sense, CNN was a catalyst of the birth of cable TV in India, and then opened a whole new genre when it launched channels like Cartoon Network in 1995 and then POGO in 2004, that had taken kids entertainment from animation alone to live action as well.” She spoke of the various Turner initiatives like SNAPToons, which was created to identify the next generation of animation legends for Asia Pacific, where 50 per cent of entries were coming from India. Reiterating the importance that India as a market had for Turner, she said, “In 2009, we invested in India more than we invested in any other international market. We have been committed to this market for two decades now, and we are very excited about our future plans here.”
Another speaker who reiterated the importance of India in the global market was Fox Filmed Entertainment’s Jim Gianopulos, who spoke extensively on the experience of ‘My Name is Khan’, a movie created by a STAR TV and Fox JV that was distributed aggressively in the international markets. He spoke about the difference of ‘Acting Global and Thinking Local’ and ‘Thinking Global, Acting Local’ and the importance of the latter too. He cited the example of ‘MNIK’ to explain that great ideas and great stories had no borders and once that was achieved, the local box office contributed to the success of a movie as much as the international box office did.
The inaugural sessions of FICCI Frames had the audience charged and set for the three days. But as soon as the session was over, the discussions were back to ‘so what is new’.