Storytelling to Story selling – c’mon Bengali cinema!

— Indraneel Ganguli

Bengal in many ways has given the world several firsts. Most of them (unfortunately) have, over time, been overtaken by others, but the last bastion that remains unconquered is our cultural richness. Cinema takes an important pole position here and eminent filmmakers (Ray, Sen, Ghatak, Roy among others), and their craft have enthralled generations together.

While we continue to get inspired by them for time immemorial, the question arises - how long will we languish in their creations and live with reflected glory? Any form of art (cinema included) needs to be financially viable to guarantee its future. Content and intellectual thinking cannot alone sustain the futures of thousands (if not lakhs, if I consider the peripheral support system involved) of families, for the noon, matinee, evening and night show of any film’s existence.

The gross turnover of Tollywood has fallen 30% between 2014 and 2015*. The leading production house in the state (Shree Venkatesh Films), which does around 20 films a year is also running at a loss. East India Motion Pictures Association blames content for the industry's current condition. 143 films were censored in 2014 but only 66 were released. In 2015, out of the 144 censored, just 43 saw the light of the day. Since 2008, Reliance has invested close to Rs 40 crore in Bengali films and yet to recover the cost, forcing them to take one step at a time.

Bengali cinema needs oxygen and any extra molecule in the form of an idea is welcome.

This thought crosses my mind every time I am on international travel and being the film buff that I am, always take the effort to browse the latest in-flight entertainment section of an airline. Very few Bengali movies and that set me thinking … what is the problem here?
We must learn from others. How do successful filmmakers franchise their work? How can we create a brand of movies for the iPad generation? How can our cinema be stitched with great narrative that is also a happy story for the Annual Reports? Why doesn’t Netflix have Bengali films? Claps and reviews are important, but so is the “Bread”. We need to introspect and come up with ideas.

I urge Bengali filmmakers and the larger fraternity to take the lead and engage with large film production houses (maybe Spielberg’s or Red Chillies or …) to understand how they do it. Storytelling was never a problem with Bengal; story selling definitely is. That’s where the consternation lies. Let’s debate it in every forum … come up with ideas that will let Bengali cinema breathe easy.

*source: KPMG

Indraneel Ganguli is the Senior Vice President Marketing at Tech Mahindra. His portfolio includes 10 years in advertising, 4 years in telecom, and 4 years in IT, and he has ample experience in communicating and working with Gen C.