In 2012, the film that won the maximum number of National Awards was Dekh Indian Circus. The film won in the category of Best Children’s Film, Best Child Artist, Special Mention (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Special Mention (Tannishtha Chatterjee). The film, produced by Sundial Pictures, went on to win two awards at the 12th New York Indian Film Festival and the Audience Choice Award at the 16th Busan International Film Festival. Yet, despite all the laurels, the film failed to find a distributor and was never released in theatres.
While creating a masterpiece for the big screen is a tough task, a tougher task is to make sure it reaches the audience. Ironically, when it comes to distribution, a film seems to be considered more as ‘commodity’ than an ‘artwork’, where the criterion is whether it can sell or not.
Not just small-budget, independent films, but even award-winning films often get shelved for want of distributors. Mangesh Hadawale, director of Dekh Indian Circus, says, “In 2012, the trend of ‘100 crore club’ films was at its peak; content was overshadowed by numbers. Although everyone who watched it (including distributors) loved it wholeheartedly, they were not ready to take the risk. It’s disheartening to see one’s project getting shelved but one must move on.”
The same year, another much talked about film — Peddlers — met the same fate. Written and directed by Vasan Bala, the film was screened as part of the 2012 International Critics’ Week, an independent film event which runs parallel to the Cannes Film Festival in southern France. At the event, Peddlers received a warm response from critics and the audience alike.
One of the lead actors of Peddlers, Siddharth Menon, who is from Pune, says, “The fact that Peddlers wasn’t released in the theatres was painful for the entire team… the film had got a distributor — Eros International — but the company decided against releasing it. Majority of the cast and crew were first-timers in the industry… so, we were happy that it got showcased internationally. We kept ourselves positive and decided to move on.”
Pointing out that the film industry is “unpredictable”, Menon says that many a times, distributors may like a project, but are not very sure about taking a risk and investing in it, and one has to respect that view as well.
As streaming websites have become increasingly popular, Hadawale says, “These days, filmmakers who are struggling to get their films released can, and should, explore mediums like Netflix and Amazon so that their film reaches the audience.” Menon says that the makers of Loev, a film starring him, sold it to Netflix.
“… We were trying to figure out how to find distributors and when this opportunity popped up, we cashed in on it. Basically, we went with the flow. The film has got a worldwide release in 180 countries and 22 languages,” he says, adding that as far as Marathi films are concerned, the audience is willing to go to the theatre to watch good films. If that happens, the filmmakers won’t have problems finding distributors and the industry will also grow, says Menon.