India’s NFDC ups ante in Cannes market

May 21st, 2009 - 2:44 pm ICT by IANS  

By Saibal Chatterjee
Cannes, May 21 (IANS) India’s nodal cinema body NFDC seems to be going places. It is not only exploring global distribution avenues for regional language films at Cannes but has also finalised a partnership deal with the Locarno festival authorities.

“We have also appreciably expanded our international buyer base. We are now in contact with far more sales agents than we were five years ago. Buyers around the world are increasingly looking for non-Bollywood fare from India,” Nina Lath Gupta, NFDC managing director, told IANS.

The National Film Development Corporation’s Screenwriting Lab that helps Indian film writers find international backers will be held in two separate parts - the first of which will be in Locarno during the festival in the Swiss city during Aug 5-15.

The second part will be held at the Film Bazaar in the upcoming 40th International Film Festival of India in Goa in November.

“We’ve built a lot of new partnerships in Britain, Germany, Australia and France and forged links with major international sales agents like Fortissimo Films and The Match Factory, among others,” Gupta said.

NFDC has faced numerous financial and administrative problems in recent years, but manpower rationalisation and a renewed thrust on international sales promise to put the organisation back on track.

“We have reduced our staff strength by one-third and moved our subtitled unit and short film production centre to Chennai,” Gupta said.

Among the five new films that NFDC has on its palette in the Cannes Film Market are three in languages that India’s nodal cinema body has never produced films in - Assamese, Konkani and Rajasthani - raising its language count to 18.

“All these films will be ready for delivery by September this year,” said Gupta.

The films on NFDC’s plate have aroused considerable interest in the market here despite the obvious effects of the global economic slowdown on the movie business.

It includes Bidyut Kotoky’s Assamese film, starring Sanjay Suri and Naved Aslam, revolves around an activist who disappeared on the world’s largest river island, Majuli and, seven years on, is about to be declared dead when a journalist-friend decides to go looking for him.

A Konkani film, Laxmikant Shetgaonkar’s “The Man Beyond The Bridge”, which, according to Gupta, has been mentored by Oscar-winning director Danis Tanovic, has been wrapped up. Seema Kapoor’s Rajasthani-Hindi film “Haat” is nearing completion.

The two other NFDC-produced films up for sale in Cannes are Aijaz Khan’s “The White Elephant”, made jointly with NDTV Imagine, and Joydeep Ghosh’s three-in-one Bengali-language literary adaptation, “Maya Bazaar”.

Gupta also said NFDC was about to begin production of a new film titled “Kissa” by writer-director Anup Singh. German producer Yohannes Rexin is on board as a funding partner.

“The screenplay has turned out really well. Anup Singh has been working on it for quite a while,” said Gupta.

NFDC has also launched an ambitious project to restore the films it has produced over the years, beginning with a quartet of Satyajit Ray creations.

Gupta said three of Ray’s late-career films, “Ghare Baire”, “Ganashatru” and “Agantuk”, all produced by NFDC, as well as the classic “Aparajito”, the second film of the celebrated “Apu” trilogy which has been acquired by NFDC, have already been restored and digitally re-mastered.

The restoration project is being done in collaboration with Mumbai-based Pixion Studios. Work has begun on the restoration of Kundan Shah’s “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron” and Ketan Mehta’s “Mirch Masala”, said Gupta.

“Many of the films are in really bad shape and the restoration effort is an urgent necessity. If we don’t do something about these films right away it might soon be too late,” Gupta said, expressing the hope that the National Film Archives of India would step forward to add its weight to the plan.

(Saibal Chatterjee can be contacted at saibal.chatterjee@gmail.com)

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