Independent cinema is under seige in India with multiplexes and studios taking over the production and exhibition of movies, a group of filmmakers said at the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival 2013 here Wednesday.
At a panel discussion, "India's Indie Film Future - Questions and Concerns : A Filmmakers' Forum", directors like Goutam Ghose, Kaushik Ganguly, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, Suman Mukhopadhyay and Onir questioned the role of the state in promoting cinema.
They asked why independent cinema was not considered a part of art and culture of India and discussed ways to nurture quality cinema with the help of enterprising sponsors.
The filmmakers said "exhibition was the biggest challenge despite the fact that Indian cinema always had a strong regional presence". The national awards were proof of the power of regional cinema. The filmmakers wanted to know "how mainstream industry like Bollywood and Tollywood planned to accommodate flegling moviemakers".
Onir, known for his path-breaking movie, "My Brother Nikhil", which dealt with the menace of AIDS, said reaching the audience with "one's movies was tough as they are constantly being made to believe that cinema is entertainment and nothing more than that".
A petition by Onir demanding the government support independent filmmakers has turned into a movement backed by 50 of them across the country and with nearly 20,000 signatories.
The petition, "Save Indie Cinema" that was made accessible to movie enthusiasts at the festival says "as the country celebrates 100 years of cinema, the petitioners want to bring to your notice how the new wave Indie cinema is under threat".
"Among the various challenges that we face as Indie filmmakers, the biggest is that of exhibition. The multiplexes which were given tax benefits to promote small budget content films have been in fact been instrumental in destroying small cinema by only playing box office game".
The petition says "high ticket pricing that is inappropriate for small budget films, inadequate number of shows and odd show timings further destroy the possibility of Indie cinema to have any proper chance at being viewed".
"It defies logic that a Rs.150 crore film and a Rs.1.5 crore film are priced by the multiplexes in the same manner," the petition said.
The petition, while "applauding the Rs.300 crore spent on reviving archival movies by the government", lists 10 recommendations for better display space for independent movies and more financial benefits for award-winning filmmakers.