08 September, 2008

Witnessing the "World Cinema" Revolution in India

Last week director Shekhar Kapoor (Elizabeth) unveiled a collection of 10 DVDs in Mumbai. It wasn't one of those star-studded evenings in the commercial film capital of India, and the difference did not end here! All ten films were European, Latin American and Asian titles.

India is witnessing a revolution of sort: Films from Europe and especially European festivals are now becoming readily available, in some cases just few months after their festival run. No, I'm not talking about film festivals and film societies, who have traditionally been making these films available to the discerning audience for the last half of the century.

This time, the "revolution" is led by corporates. UTV, a leading media conglomerate with interests in film production, distribution, broadcast and gaming, started a 24 hours channel "World Movies" in February this year. This channel started airing international films many of them European classics such as Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy.

NDTV, another important corporate media house has started a venture to serve the world cinema lovers in India. NDTV Lumiere (name derived from the pioneers of film technology French brothers -Auguste and Louis, who brought cinema to India and exhibited their first films in Bombay in 1896) has already built a library of more than 350 films consisting of mainly contemporary European cinema. Ten releases on DVDs were the first from the company in this format. For last three months company has been releasing films in multiplexes in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore and plans to launch a television channel by next month.

Early this year, Palador Pictures, a homegrown distributor released Fran├žois Truffaut collection on DVD, followed by Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa and many others. The company boasts of a library of 1000 titles and plans to release them on DVDs in a phased manner.

All these three companies, collectively hold rights of about 2000 international film titles, which are ready to hit market in multiple platforms--theatres, DVDs, television and DTH.

India hasn't seen such an activity in this segment before. On the contrary, the segment didn't even exist a year before and was considered a space for non profit festivals and societies.

It's actually an exciting time to be in India for a filmbuff.

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