The first day of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017 (GES) here saw a packed audience attending a panel discussion where various personalities from the film industry were invited to share their views on the theme titled the 'Future of Cinema.'
The engaging discussion was moderated by Rajya Sabha MP Subhash Chandra and the panelists included actor Aditi Rao Hydari, Bollywood producer Ronnie Screwvala and Nigerian actor and film-maker Onyekachi Stephanie Linus Idahosa, who is also the CEO of Next Page Productions. It focused on key questions — what was the role of cinema today, what were the challenges that actors, directors and film producers faced, how to overcome those and what impact would the smartphone have on people going to see movies on the big screen.
Beginning the discussion, Chandra recounted the early days and the hostility he faced from the film industry when he entered the market with the country's first private channel. "In the initial days of Indian television, there used to be only one film on television per week. When we started the first private television station, the film industry felt that we are going to close down the industry by showing movies on television, but the contrary happened."He added, "Now, satellite television contributes to almost 50 per cent of movie's budget or even more than that."
Chandra's remarks were seconded by the panelists, all of whom felt that this change should be embraced as a positive thing by film-makers. However, Aditi Rao Hydari pointed out that there were issues that needed to be rectified to get more people to see films. She said, "Today, we have a scenario where we have 10,000 film theaters in India - which is ridiculous in a country with a population of 1.2 billion. We need to look at and solve these problems."
Hydari's remarks were seconded by the rest of the panel who also pointed out that it was not just the lack of theaters that were the problem in the Indian film industry. Responding to a question by Chandra as to why the Indian cinema industry did not have a stronger impact on the Indian economy, despite employing anywhere between five to 10 million people, Screwvala said: "The problem is that of perception. Today we are such a fragmented industry that we have not come together to talk about our perceptions and common issues that concern us. That is why the Indian film industry remains a peripheral industry."
Chandra then took up the question of gender in cinema and asked the panelists just why more women directors had not come up in Bollywood and other film industries in various parts of the country. To this, Hydari quipped: "I prefer to see myself in front of the camera" — a view that was not shared by her Nigerian counterpart Stephanie Linus Idahosa. "Earlier, when I was only an actor, I did not like the way I was being represented onscreen . So, I went behind the camera to have more control over the way I was represented."
On the big question of going digital and just what it meant for the film industry, Subhash Chandra was enthusiastic about the possibilities that it could bring. Commenting on the advent of digital in Indian films, he said, "When you watch a cinema in a theatre, it's a larger-than-life experience, while digitally you see everything on a five-inch screen. With digital, there are no barriers today, you can cross over to various other mediums and that's the beauty of the digital world." Hydari said, "I am getting offers to work in regular films, so I haven't yet looked at the digital film or web series. However, if there are directors that I like and trust who offer me a role, I will happily do it."
Screwvala agreed, but added that there were dangers in the medium. "Digital can co-exist with the big screen, but the big challenge for India vis-a-vis everywhere else is that our windows for releasing a movie to other platforms has shrunk drastically. If a person can feel I can watch that movie digitally in the next six weeks, there will be an inertia to go to the movies."
EMBRACING CHANGESUBHASH CHANDRA
On how the film industry saw him as a threat"In the initial days of television in India, there used to be only one film on television per week. When we started the first private television station, the film industry felt that we are going to close down the industry by showing movies on television, but the contrary happened. Now, satellite television contributes to almost 50% of movie's budget or even more than that."
On why digital is the best thing to happen to cinema"When you watch a cinema in a theater, it's a larger than life experience, while digitally you see everything on a five-inch screen. With digital, there are no barriers today, you can cross over to various other mediums… and that's the beauty of the digital world."