Nina Lath Gupta On Why NFDC Believes In The Cause Of Independent Indian Cinema!

By Aditya Savnal. Posted on November 10, 2015

The National Film Development Corporation Ltd (NFDC) was formed by I&B ministry in the year 1975 with the intent of promoting and supporting the financing, distribution and development of independent films across the country.

Since then, NFDC has played an instrumental role in shaping the parallel cinema movement in India by backing some of the finest filmmakers of our times such as Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani and films such as Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, Mirch Masala, Gandhi, Khamosh and Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro.

However, there came a time during the early 2000’s when the institution faced tough times with dwindling profits and bureaucratic indifference seeping in.

Just when everyone had written NFDC stepped in Nina Gupta. She had worked previously with the Indian Revenue Service, has turned the organization around and made NFDC a force to reckon with.

In recent times, NFDC has backed some of the most exciting and promising films of recent times such as Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox (co produced by Anurag Kashyap and Guneet Monga) and Q’s Tasher Desh and Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai, apart from funding films like Anhey Ghore Da Daan & Island City that have gone on to win international acclaim at leading film fests.

But one of the biggest success stories credited to Gupta is the Film Bazaar. The initiative that was started in 2007, brings filmmakers, production houses & festival programmers together and has emerged as the biggest film market in South Asia.

Besides this, it also set up the NFDC Screenwriters Lab that is aimed at mentoring screenwriters & get stories & storytellers from across India find a platform.

We recently spoke to Nina Lath Gupta to know more about her journey, the revival of NFDC, the new initiatives of NFDC and their future plans.

Talking about the revival of NFDC, Gupta says “Every institution goes through this phase wherein it needs to revive and reinvent itself periodically. And we were no different. We achieved this revival by restructuring in various ways and downsizing our staff. We transitioned from being a film finance and production company to being a development body covering the entire spectrum of film business ranging from content to exhibition.” She also added that re-positioning NFDC as an ad agency helped them to be profitable and achieve a turnover.

The idea of an international co-production is not new to NFDC. Many of their earlier films including Gandhi and Kaali Salwaar have been international co-productions.

But according to Gupta, the remarkable success of Film Bazaar shows that “Both Indian and international filmmakers, production houses and other film entities are keen to work together. And there is more acceptability to the idea of an international co-production than it was 10 years ago.”

It was due to the Screenwriters Labs that scripts such as The Lunchbox, Sharat Katariya’s Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha and Kanu Behl’s Titli were discovered and seen by the audiences. Since its revival, NFDC has also produced some of the most impressive debut films such as Gurvinder Singh’s Anhey Ghorey Da Daan (Alms For A Blind Horse) among others.

It is initiatives like these that has helped NFDC to re-emerge as a platform that gives alternate and independent filmmakers the chance to make their films.

With regards to this, Gupta says “Since its inception, NFDC has believed in promoting talented filmmakers and other individuals from across the country. It has also been instrumental in giving many talented and some of the best names of the Indian film industry a platform for their debut ventures. The long list includes Vidhu Vinod Chopra whose debut film Khamosh was produced by NFDC and Manmohan Shetty who started his first company in association with NFDC. Besides this, some of the most distinguished actors including Om Puri started their journey with us”.

The last couple of years have seen the internet redefine the norms for content viewing in India and established it as a medium for young filmmakers to leverage and showcase their content.

Gupta is of the opinion that “The transition to the digital consumption in India will be far more rapid than other countries. The reason for this is that the source of communication in tier 3 cities and other parts of India is no longer going to be television but digital platforms. And therefore the potential of exploiting the digital platform is far, greater.”

NFDC has been quick to change with the changing times and has recently launched their Video-On-Demand platform that hosts their entire catalogue of 'Cinemas of India'. Gupta believes that, “there is a huge potential for this medium.”

Talking about its viability, she says “We are offering much better terms to filmmakers compared to other VOD platforms. It's a non exclusive platform which is carefully curated and you don’t have to hunt for good cinema.”

Though NFDC has re-established itself as key player in the independent and alternate cinema section, Gupta says that the organization is not keen to enter into the distribution space as an independent player and is happy to co-exist with the big players in the market.

“We have released many of our films successfully in partnership with producers such Viacom (The Girl In The Yellow Boots, Manjhi, Manjunath) and Yash Raj Films (Titli, Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha). I think as audiences open up to different kinds of content, there is going to be an inevitable transition in the distribution network too with more studios opening themselves up to the idea of releasing such films. And since the beginning we have been clear in our mandate, which is to supplement the private sector and not compete with them”

One of the latest initiatives by the Film Bazaar is promoting India as a destination for shooting films and conducting film tourism workshops that aim to bring film friendly policies for the film fraternity to shoot and work in harmony.

When we inquired further about this, Gupta remarked “Film tourism workshops are being initiated with an intention of being film friendly and by bringing about policy changes and hosting a series of discussions on the same”.

Talking about the film offices initiative she remarked that “The film offices facilitate clearances and help filmmakers and production houses to work with the Government to identify where changes can be brought about, giving information on locations and other details for shooting and providing periodical training exercises to work with states to acquaint them to be film friendly”

When asked about the future Plans for NFDC and Film Bazaar, Gupta states that their aim is “to continue curating high quality projects while also being mindful of the commerce and the commercial viability of these projects” .


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