This year, big Bollywood names flocked to the NFDC-run Film Bazaar looking for the right project.
They want to tell their story and show it to the world. The procedure leaves most enthusiastic first-timers flummoxed. How do you turn a script into a film that releases? A platform that connects the makers with those who can help, mentor, or partner is a most valuable asset for a prolific film producing country.
In the Film Bazaar, run by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), now in its eighth year, India has found that platform. And I can say with no hesitation that this is the place to head to for anyone who has any interest in India cinema.
In my four days at this edition of the Bazaar in Goa, which runs alongside the International Film Festival (which closes today), I find it even more of a hive than it has been in the past years.
When it started, it had a 100 participants. This year, the participation has gone up to over a 1,000 from nearly 40 countries. And what it provides filmmakers is what the mandate of NFDC is — to develop and grow Indian cinema: a filmmaker can show up with an idea, and go to the next level of writing the script. A script can be “mentored” and made better and sharper. It can notionally find co-producers (national and international). And it can get funding at each level, if it is good enough: this year, investors heard hungry filmmakers with worthy projects put out their “pitches”, and some found their “angel” investor. This is where the “market” truly kicks in.
As Anurag Kashyap said at a session in the Bazaar’s informative ‘Knowledge Series’, “India is not short of funds. Your film will find the money if it deserves it.” Film development funds and sales agents from around the globe have their eyes on the Bazaar: if it can give them another Lunchbox, the film which has been phenomenally successful world-wide, and which is a Bazaar gift, they want it.
In 2013, a bunch of successful Indian films came out of the Bazaar, including Anand Gandhi’s terrific The Ship Of Theseus. Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely did not do much business locally, but generated much critical appreciation outside. Ahluwalia is back at the Bazaar this year with a new film, and says that he’s finding much more global awareness of contemporary Indian cinema, and much of it is down to the existence of the Bazaar and the projects that have come out of it.
It’s not just independent filmmakers who are increasingly crowding the Bazaar. Established Bollywood filmmakers are also turning up to see new talent, and take away from it.
Anurag Basu tells me several people on his team are from amongst those he’s met at the Bazaar. Rohan Sippy is here for the first time, and is soaking it all in. Vidhu Vinod Chopra is here with a “master-class”, and a much-needed hand-out. I chat with Vishal Bhardwaj and Dibakar Banerji, both frequent and enthusiastic visitors. Banerji was here with debutant director Kanu Behl in 2012, and from what I’ve seen and heard, his Titli (up for release early next year) will add to the blazing new Indian voices which are being heard globally.
Marco Mueller, former artistic director of the Venice and Rome Festivals, and the man responsible for taking Asian cinema to Europe, is a big supporter of the Bazaar. He calls it the place where it is all beginning to happen. I am a votary too, having been an invited delegate from its beginning, and seen it grow: even though the new Indian cinema doesn’t yet have a “signature”, like the Iranian and the Korean cinema which is instantly recognisable globally, (and which it may never have, given our staggering diversity), it’s getting there.
To begin with, the Bazaar was fringe. In eight years, it has claimed pole position in the Indian film festival calendar. This year, representatives of the booming Marathi, Bengali and Malayalam industries were there with their new films. So was Karan Johar, talking of mentoring and discovering new talent.
Big Bollywood at the Bazaar? That is serious traction.