The Warrior Queen of Jhansi, a 2019 period film on the 1857 Indian rebellion against the British East India Company, is at AFM for buyers’ screening at the AFM on Demand platform. The film was co-written, produced and directed by Swati Bhise through her production company, Cayenne Pepper Productions. Devika Bhise, who also co-wrote the script, plays the lead role of Rani Lakshmibai. Pure Filx/Quality Film is the sales agent of the film.
The film is a historical story of the Rani of Jhansi, a feminist icon in India and a fearless freedom fighter. She earned a reputation as the Joan of Arc of the East when in 1857 India, as a 24-year old general, she led her people into battle against the British Empire. Her insurrection shifted the balance of power in the region and set in motion the demise of the British East India Company and the beginning of the resistance against the ensuing British Raj under Queen Victoria.
“Just 25, Laxmibai trained a regiment to protect the kingdom of Jhansi from annexation by the powerful British East India Company. Her bravery and convention-flouting spirit are undeniably inspirational,” says The New York Times in its review of the film.
Rupert Everett, Derek Jacobi, Ben Lamb, Jodhi May and Hindi actors Yatin Karyekar, Milind Gunaji, Ajinkya Deo and Arif Zakaria are part of the movie’s cast.
“The film is the directorial debut of Swati Bhise, a Mumbai-born, New York-based dancer and choreographer. Her principal collaborator is her daughter, Devika Bhise, who helped mom and Olivia Emden write the script and who plays the rani (or queen). The younger woman even directed the last few days of shooting after her mother was hospitalized with pneumonia,” says The Washington Post in its review.
It adds: “The Bhises surrounded themselves with pros, including actors Rupert Everett, Derek Jacobi and Jodhi May, as well as an experienced production team. The result is a film with striking locations and sumptuous visuals.”
Swati Bhise, who served as the executive producer and Indian cultural consultant for The Man Who Knew Infinity, which was on the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan, explains what mad her to make the movie on Rani Lakshmi Bai.
“After Ramanujan, I wanted to make a film on Rani Lakshmi Bai, primarily to have the world witness her story. I hope everyone realises that we need to make an effort and take our stories outside of their domestic boundaries. The West is not really dying to hear any of our stories, there’s a lot of resistance. They will say that Rani Lakshmi Bai is a myth, they’ll say she didn’t exist…or they will say that a film on her story is not really up to Hollywood standards, because you don’t have a budget of 100 million,” she says in an interview to First Post.
“Even some Indians will resist and question the need to take her story to Hollywood. I just tried to make a film about an amazing Indian woman and make everyone understand that she deserves to be a role model for every woman; irrespective of whether they are Indian or not. I hope more stories like this get out of India so Hollywood begins to pay attention to positive and affirmative stories about Indian characters instead of continuing to build an endless list of negative and stereotypical ones,” she adds.
The film was shot in 2017 in India and Morocco, with a small portion set in the UK. Recreating a bygone era was a challenge since Bhise wanted authenticity. That meant minimal make-up for the queen and silks in the Paithani, Kota and Chanderi weaves for the costumes, which Bhise created with Vidhi Singhania.
A combination of real locations and sets were used. Shoot happened in the palaces and forts of Jaipur and Jodhpur as well as Ouarzazate in Morocco, home to the Atlas Studios, where many Hollywood period productions were shot. Post-production was completed in 2018.
With this film, Bhise has made Rani Lakshmi Bai a global feminist icon and tells her story through an authentic, non-exotic narrative.
India is probably the world’s most culturally and linguistically diverse nation. Its people speak 22 different languages, besides hundreds of dialects. No wonder then that India is a land of many cinematic traditions. The 1800-odd movies that the country annually produces are made in a number of languages, each with its own distinct literature, history, theatre and music.
Indian films are produced in several centres around the country. Each of these filmmaking cities serves as the hub of cinema in one prominent language.
Mumbai, regarded as India’s movie capital, hosts the Hindi film industry that has a pan-Indian footprint. Marathi-language films are also produced in the city (besides neighbouring Pune) that is inextricably intertwined with the history of Indian cinema.
Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore, Bhubaneswar and Guwahati are the other major Indian cities where films are produced.
While the distribution of these so-called ‘regional’ films is largely limited within the territories for which they are made – they do not have the nationwide reach of Bollywood blockbusters – they add immensely to the depth and range of Indian cinema.
The centre-point of Indian film industry, Mumbai, popularly Bollywood, is a land of cinema. From commercial grandeur to arthouse movies, there is no short of cinema in the capital city of Maharashtra
The bustling western Indian metropolis is the heart of the Indian movie industry, producing nearly 200 films a year in the Hindi language. It also, along with the nearby city of Pune, produces Marathi-language films, which, in the silent era and beyond, thrived in the hands of pioneering stalwarts like V Shantaram and Bhalji Pendharkar, among others. A large chunk of the Hindi films produced in Mumbai constitute what is usually described as Bollywood, a label used for an old cinematic tradition built on a formulaic and crowd-pleasing mix of melodrama, romance, moral conflict and music. This extravagant form of storytelling is extremely popular in the other filmmaking centres as well. However, it is by no means the only kind of cinema that emerges from Mumbai.
The city has always had two distinct streams of filmmaking – one aimed at providing glitzy and emotionally satisfying entertainment to the masses; the other designed to appeal to a niche audience with a taste for more realistic movies. There have of course been occasions when these two separate approaches have merged in the same film and resulted in timeless classics such as Mother India, Mughal-e-Azam, Deewar and Lagaan. The A-list Mumbai cinema stars, objects of adulation around the country and by the Indian Diaspora, power the mainstream Bollywood industry. Mumbai played a key role in the evolution of parallel films in the late 1960s and 1970s,thanks to the efforts of directors like Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani. Its filmmakers also drove the global spread of the Bollywood narrative idiom in the aftermath of major commercial successes in the past decade and a half. A breed of younger Mumbai filmmakers, migrants to the city from different parts of the country, have scripted a new kind of popular cinema that blends social awareness, aesthetic clarity and stylistic accessibility. Several of these films have travelled to international festivals in recent years while finding takers on the domestic distribution circuit as well.
Located down south of India, Chennai is the birthplace of Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada film industries. While the last three moved to their respective neighbouring states, Tamil movies continue to be made in this city, thus making it a sought after destination of movie making in the country
Chennai (formerly Madras) is home to the hugely successful and productive Tamil movie industry, which has, over the decades, given Indian cinema a few of its biggest and most abiding stars. The Tamil movie industry has seen film production since the mid 1910s. It has constantly kept pace with the growth of the rest of Indian cinema. In fact, at several junctures in its history, it even set the pace for others to follow, especially in matters of technology and film production practices. Tamil cinema has a following not only in the state of Tamil Nadu but also in the other southern states of India, besides among the Tamil expatriate community across the world. Hindi versions of Tamil box office hits as well as bilingual productions mounted in Chennai have been successful around India ever since 1948’s Chandralekha opened the sluice-gates for nationally distributed films from this part of India.
The dominant strain of Tamil movies, like that of Hindi popular cinema, hinges on the crowd-pulling power of its male superstars, notably veterans Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. A new generation of stars have continued the tradition. But in the past as well as in recent times, the industry has seen a steady output of films from young directors working outside the conventional star system with great success. For audiences around the country, Mani Ratnam, who also makes films in Hindi, is one of the better known Chennai directors.
Kolkata has given the world some of the best movies and filmmakers. Right from the black and white era, Bengali films carried the stamp of reality and social awareness, and the flag still flies high.
Bengali-language cinema, known the world over for the celebrated masterpieces of Satyajit Ray, is produced in Kolkata from studios located largely in Tollygunge in the city’s southern suburbs.
Many of the pioneers of early Indian cinema worked in this city in the silent era. In fact, Hiralal Sen is known to have made films here well before India’s officially recognized first full-fledged fiction film, D.G. Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra, was screened in Mumbai. Commercial Bengali cinema has thrived right since the silent era, barring a few troughs in the 1980s and 1990s caused by the death of its most luminous superstar Uttam Kumar and the retirement of his on-screen partner Suchitra Sen.But it is for the critically acclaimed works of three masters – Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen – that Kolkata enjoys global fame. Directors such as Tapan Sinha and Tarun Majumdar built their careers around films that struck a fine balance between artistic merit and commercial potential.
More than their counterparts in any of the other film production centres of India, screenwriters and directors in Kolkata, especially those that work in the non-mainstream sphere, continue to draw inspiration primarily from literature. It is a tradition that dates back to the silent era, a period during which Bengali cinema, unlike other cinemas that were beginning to take roots in that period, produced social satires and dramas adapted from literary works rather than mythological epics.
Not just the land, but its films too are known for their spicy nature. It will be no exaggeration if we call Hyderabad the capital of commercial cinema. For, most of India’s colourful and costly movies are made here.
Hyderabad is the hub of Telugu cinema, which is one of the most prolific and commercially consistent of all the cinemas of India. Between Telengana and Andhra Pradesh, the two separate states that the erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh has recently been split into, there are 2800 movie halls, the highest in any single region of India. On several occasions in the last decade, Telugu films accounted for more releases in a year than cinema in any other Indian language, including Hindi. Many big-budget Hindi and Tamil films are official remakes of Telugu hits, a sure measure of the mass appeal of movies made in Hyderabad. In terms of artistic quality and global recognition, Telugu cinema may lag behind films made in Malayalam and Tamil, but it continues to be the most robust of the southern industries.Hyderabad has some of India’s best film production studios. They have been set up by established names of the Telugu movie industry – men such as B. N. Reddy, L.V. Prasad, Akkineni Nageswara Rao and D. Rama Naidu. Until about three decades ago, large sections of the Telugu movie industry operated out of Chennai. But today, Hyderabad is where all the Telugu cinema action is focused. Filmmmaker S.S. Rajamouli and male stars such as Prabhas enjoy nationwide popularity thanks mainly to the super success of the period action drama Baahubali.
Known for producing award winning films, Thiruvananthapuram, the hub of Malayalam cinema, is lately carving a niche for itself for new-age content-rich and commercial movies. From Adoor Gopalakrishnan to Mohanlal-Mammootty to Vineeth-Nivin Pauly, the land has a rich legacy of cinema
Thiruvananthapuram (formerly Trivandrum) is the capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala. The city, along with Kochi, serves as the nerve-centre of cinema in Malayalam. Although films were made in the state in the silent era, cinema in Kerala was late to flourish and at the time of India’s Independence in 1947, only a handful of Malayalam filmshad been produced. But when the movie industry in this part of the country took off in the 1950s, it not only quickly caught up with the rest of Indian cinema, it also established itself at the forefront of the Indian parallel cinema movement. Malayalam movie superstars Mohanlal and Mammootty are known across the country and directors such as Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Shaji N. Karun and the late G. Aravindan are feted at film festivals around the world.
When Malayalam cinema began to assume the proportions of a full-fledged industry post-Independence, it was headquartered in Chennai. It was only by the late 1980s that it moved completely to its current location in Thiruvananthapuram. Like the other cinemas of India, Malayalam movies are divided between a popular genre and a socially relevant strand. Cinema from Kerala gained national and international prominence, riding on the films made by Adoor and Aravindan in the 1970s and 1980s. The tradition of making realistic and meaningful cinema continues to this day.
The capital city of Karnataka is the home of Kannada film industry, popularly Sandalwood. It has produced some great talents, from actors to directors to technicians
In Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, films are made in the Kannada language. The first Kannada film was made in the talkie era, and the industry’s growth was steady until the late 1940s. The 1950s marked the advent of Dr.Rajkumar, whose popularity as a lead actor in mythological epics helped Kannada cinema achieve new heights. The 1970s and 1980s are generally regarded as the golden era of Kannada cinema, which was enriched by the work of directors like B.V.Karanth, Girish Karnad and Girish Kasaravalli. In 1970, Samskara, based on a novel by celebrated writer U.R. Ananthamurthy and directed by Pattabhi Rama Reddy, inaugurated the parallel cinema movement in Karnataka. While alternative cinema has continued to thrive in the state, commercial cinema, too, has sustained itself despite not quite enjoying the financial clout of Tamil and Telugu films.
LUCKNOW, Uttar Pradesh
Bhojpuri cinema, which also caters to third and fourth generation migrants in Surinam, Mauritius, Trinidad & Tobago, Fiji and Guyana, has its own star system and a committed audience base
The central Indian city of Lucknow is one of the bases of Bhojpuri cinema, which is produced largely in and for eastern Uttar Pradesh, western Bihar and Jharkhand. The first-ever Bhojpuri-language film, Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Chadaibo (Mother Ganges, I Will Offer You a Yellow Sari), was released only in the early 1960s. But the industry grew steadily as the demand from people who speak the dialect in India and elsewhere increased. Bhojpuri cinema, which also caters to third and fourth generation migrants in Surinam, Mauritius, Trinidad & Tobago, Fiji and Guyana, has its own star system and a committed audience base, but it has failed to build on the opportunities to break into the national mainstream. The last couple of decades have seen a major spurt in the production of Bhojpuri films, but these have all been run-of-the-mill potboilers designed for an audience that seems to be undemanding and easy to please. In parts of India where Bhojpuri speakers live and work, these films continue to be exceedingly popular. But since most of these films are made on tight budgets and follow rushed production timelines, they tend to be rather low on technical finesse.
The shift of Odia cinema from Kolkata to Bhubaneswar heralded a new era. Since then, Bhubaneswar continues to be the focus point of Odia films
In the eastern Indian state of Odisha, films are made in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.
The first Odia-language film was made in 1936, but until the 1950s only a handful of more titles were produced. Back then, the Odia film industry did not have production facilities of its own. Films in the language had to depend on Kolkata, which made movie-making in Odisha difficult and unviable.
In the late 1950s, the first cooperative venture to produce, distribute and exhibit Odia films was set up by Krushna Chandra Tripathy. The organization was named Utkal Chalachitra Pratisthan, and it produced several films in the 1960s that gave Odia cinema a distinct identity.
In 1961, another production house, Pancha Sakha, was set up by amateur artiste Dhira Biswal, who produced four hugely popular films. His first production, Nua Bou, created a sensation all across the state of Odisha.
Odia cinema developed its own idiom in subsequent years thanks to the efforts of the husband-wife team of Gour Prasad Ghosh and Parbati Ghosh. The duo produced several National Award-winning films, including the epochal Kaa.
Other production houses took roots in the 1970s, including Diamond Valley Productions, set up by entrepreneur Sarat Pujari.
In 1975, the state government stepped in to promote cinema by setting up the Odisha Film Development Corporation. Five years later, the Kalinga Studio came up with the support of Chennai’s Prasad Studios. Odisha currently produces an average of 20 films a year.
Despite heavy influence from Bollywood, Assamese cinema, being made from Guwahati, has carved a niche for itself and its presence in National Awards every year stands testimony to the claim
Assamese films, produced in north-eastern city of Guwahati, are a constant presence in India’s National Awards. Yet the film industry in Assam remains commercially unviable.
Constantly under the shadow of Bollywood films, the state has not been able to develop a distribution and exhibition system that can prop up locally made films and make them viable.
At the turn of the millennium, a ray of hope had emerged in the form of a spurt in Bollywood-inspired Assamese melodrama that found takers among the mass audience in the state. But the trend was short-lived.
Despite the effort of the pioneers and the work of their successors in the 1950s and 1960s (Bhupen Hazarika, Nip Barua, Pudum Barua), Assamese cinema has been dragged down by the paucity of exhibition outlets.
Despite all the odds, the names of the late author and filmmaker Bhabendra Nath Saikia and the still-active Jahnu Barua shine bright. In recent years, Rima Das, working largely out of her native village near Guwahati, has made massive waves globally with her films Village Rockstars and Bulbul Can Sing.
Filmmakers from the rest of Northeast India, notably Manipur and Meghalaya, are also increasingly making their presence felt on the national and international stage. Manipur’s Aribam Syam Sarma has for decades been a leading light of cinema from this region of India and his films have been lauded at festivals, including Cannes.
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis necessitates a fast transformation of the global economy in order to build resilience against unprecedented challenges humankind faces today. With media & entertainment, edutainment and datertainment set to play a critical role in the new world, Blockchain, one of the frontier technologies embraced by India, will be the key to a decentralized and more transparent future of the world says Alexander Shulgin
Alexander Shulgin is a visionary, investor, composer, entrepreneur, futurist, and a Blockchain specialist, who has 20 years of investment and venture capital experience. He is a unique Russian composer who successfully combines creative work with business. He effectively manages GRUPPA KOMPANIY FAMILIA (www.familia.ru), which specializes in investment and venture capital in Blockchain, media, new media, publishing, and entertainment sectors (BitFury, Minery.io, dotBlockchainMedia, Clickky, Ticketland, AviaSales, QIWI post, SeoPult Group, Garpun, MFM Solution and others.) His personal investments are in sectors: Blockchain infrastructure, e-Sport, and Mixed Reality.
Alexander was for last five years a Member of Expert Council under the Prime Minister of Russian Federation (areas of responsibility are IT and digital economy). In an exclusive interview with Pickle , he provides deep and useful insights into how Blockchain will be a critical technology to reset the old form of global economy, and transform the way media and entertainment is consumed in a post-COVID-19 world. Excerpts…
How are you spending your time during Corona pandemic?
In this context, I recollect a verse from the Bible: “A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together.” I used to travel around the world 330 of the 365 days in a year for my business, but the Corona pandemic in the last five months provided me a much needed break – time for me to reset.
I have been utilizing this time to reflect on new technologies. I have been thinking about the big crisis we would face beginning next February that would last for a few years and would necessitate the global great reset. We have to be strong and build resilience to face it. I have also been contemplating about the emerging new future of mankind. Because technology will change the way a person consumes media and multimedia. This will be the big future of video.
Media and information is set to become a part of the post industrial society. Entertainment, media, edutainment, and ‘datertainment’ will play an important role in the life of mankind. The new economy will switch from hardware to software, driven mainly by entertainment and lifestyle technologies. The media in multimedia entertainment will be in holograms. This will be a new form of entertainment. E-sport with holograms, e-sport with real sport and holograms, etc, will give birth to a new form of media, content, spectaculars and audience.
We will soon have a new generation of people and the creative productions will have to embrace this generation of decentralized natives, which may be called ‘Generation A01’. They will be completely different from the people of ‘Generation X’, ‘Generation Y’ and ‘Generation Z’ which are older generations now. Millennials formed the last generation of the old cycle of generations.
It will be difficult to explain the new generation as to why people use vinyl records or VHS tapes. It will also be difficult to explain them why there is a Senator or a Governor. They will not understand because they were updated from birth like new updated mobile applications . So it is very crucial for us to think about them.
India has endorsed Blockchain among other frontier technologies like 5G, Big Data, IoT…What are your thoughts on this?
I think there is a great opportunity for India. In the next three to four years, India will be among the world’s top three economies. India is innovating and adopting latest technologies. Indian Prime Minister has already mentioned few technologies like 5G, Big Data, Blockchain as frontier technologies. I have great appreciation and respect for him. He’s a very wise guy. Unlike many naive global leaders, he understands that Blockchain technology is not only about crypto currency. Blockchain is not crypto currency. Blockchain is a technology. Bitcoin was invented as part of the Blockchain technology. You won’t find any mention of the term crypto currency in the white paper of Satoshi Nakamoto (who deployed the first Blockchain database).
Bitcoin is electronic cash. But it is not similar to the cash that you can get in the market when someone buys a carpet or gold from you. It is an electronic asset. Bitcoin helps to identify your assets, stores and enables transactions quickly. It is not paper currency. Of course, many people tried to do business in the so called crypto currency. They traded on the exchange—buy, sell—and tried to make some crazier things. It is not related to the nature of this decentralized ledger technology.
Blockchain is a great technological opportunity to tap because our world is headed towards a reset. We need to reset capitalism, the old form of economy. We need to reset the old form of multi-agreements between governments and the people. Our society needs it. Russia is the country of greatest revolutions. Over 100 years ago, Lenin said that when revolution happens the people at the top don’t know what to do. And the people at the bottom don’t want to follow the people at the top who don’t know what to do. So, this is the time for revolution—the right time for
redistribution of capital. There’s so much gap between 26 people who control 51 percent of the global economy, and the millions of poor people who have nothing to eat. Blockchain has the potential to become a great balancer. It’s time to give a chance to decentralized economy which is only possible with the help of Blockchain technology. This asset can be of great value for media and entertainment industry or agriculture. It’s time to embrace this new technology.
How do you think India can benefit out of this and how do you visualize that India should move forward?
With Blockchain technology and decentralized processing, India would yield huge benefits in building Smart Cities and smart future. Media and data will spur a lot of SMEs to build Smart Cities, IoT, drones and industrial IoT.
By using data, India will be the producer of ‘new oil’. This will make India great again. I’m sure that in the decade beginning 2030, India will be ahead of China and will become number one economy of the world. The Indian middle class will be about 24 percent of the global middle class. Now it’s only four. So, it will be short but very productive.
India will become the world’s top economy because India’s huge population will create a lot of data and data is the new gold. India will need to generate a lot of energy to maintain that data. When I was in India for the first time in 2018, India’s energy consumption was equivalent to Argentina’s. However, by 2022, it will be equivalent to European Union’s consumption of electricity. So electricity will be the next equivalent of energy. Therefore India will need effective and low cost energy.
We will need new social pacts and agreements as well. Transparency will be necessary for the new pacts. There is trust deficiency among people. People see a lot of fake news, double standards, and so on. Many politicians say one thing and do another thing. Blockchain would help us build trust, Smart Cities, smart technologies and smart supply chains. It holds immense promise to improve life standards of people.
Fake news is one of the global menaces. Do you think Blockchain has a solution to contain fake news?
Of course yes, because in Blockchain everything is in written form that cannot be changed. In Blockchain you will be able to trace and find out who was the original person who spread the fake news. We can fight misinformation with Blockchain technology. News organizations can create Blockchain networks and track such news.
How do you think Blockchain is going to change the landscape for media and entertainment industry?
Blockchain is set to change everything. It will change how people access content; it will change industrial businesses and, of course, our lifestyle. Media and entertainment is one of the most important aspects of our lifestyle, which is already a two-trillion dollars industry. Blockchain will transform it dramatically. It will change the way the content is created and allow its decentralization. One will be able to create
content while streaming or accessing it. Blockchain is not going to be about distribution of content, rather it will be about accessing it.
Before the digital era arrived, there used to be a Mastertape, which could be used to create limited copies of cassettes, DVDs, CDs, etc. When the digital era came, the Mastertape disappeared because you could make unlimited copies of the same quality and distribute it. However, now distribution of unlimited copies of a film has become more and more expensive because you need to distribute the content in terms of Gigabytes and Terabytes.
Blockchain resolves this issue smartly. For instance, if a new series of ‘Games of Thrones’ is launched there will be only one copy of it which will be in the DotBC standard. This standard is comparable to standards like MPEG or MP3, but it allows unlimited access to smart content. So instead of distributing that one copy of ‘Games of Thrones’ to 100 million fans, Blockchain allows you to give them access to this content. It will significantly reduce the cost of distribution and help the creator monetize every view by the users.
For instance, if you have distributed the copy of the content there may be people who will watch it for just five minutes and don’t like it. But in this case you have already spent heavily on distributed Terabytes.
However, if you give access of the content to the people even if they don’t like it you will save lot of bytes. Also, the data used can immediately give you statistics. It is much like pay for what you watch.
Today, if you put your content on YouTube you”ll be paid by advertisers only if I you have more than, say, 10,000 views. If only 300 people watch the content, they don’t pay you. But the Blockchain will allow you to get paid for even one view that too immediately.
Why are people not able to understand Blockchain?
When you are flying in a plane, do you try to understand how it is flying and the parts it has. I know the rules of aerodynamics, but I still don’t understand the aeroplane. Many people don’t understand how electricity works, but understand its benefits. So you don’t have to understand how Blockchain works. Get to know the benefits.
Blockchain is like Internet. Internet doesn’t make money. What makes money is the applications. The global standards are being formulated. G20 countries are working on the standardization and expected in a year. For Internet, TCIP was chosen as a standard. Then, institutional money came. Similarly, it will be the same here. You will have platforms like IoS or Android. It is in these applications, people will make money.
Can you give certain examples to understanding the benefits of Blockchain when deployed?
Can you imagine famous musician like Taylor Swift, Beatles or any Bollywood singer, when a new single comes 300 million copies have to be distributed. There is so much traffic. Everyone has to own a copy. With Blockchain deployment, there is only one Master and instead of distribution, you will give access. So 300 million people will come to your capsule and they will have access, which smart contract will regulate. Access, territory, free, monetization, advertisement, barter — will be regulated by a smart contract in this capsule.
With this, the singer will be able to understand his/her audience. There are no middlemen. He will understand who likes chorus or who doesn’t. He can create special songs to his fans. The creator can also raise money directly from fans. If you want to make a new series or an album, you can ask 10 million fans to pay 10 cents. You get $1 million to start your work.
A decade ago, a creator would get 5 per cent royalty from music from DVDs. Sometimes, he may not get at all. Today, creator get majority share. In the next decade, the creator will get all.
Take cinema. The producer or the production company has no idea of who their customers and audiences are. Netflix, YouTube, Amazon will never give data to creators. They have centralized data. The content creator will never know who their audiences are. Blockchain is decentralization. This will change.
If you have data then you can barter it with other things. Blockchain will allow this to happen. Let’s say if I need fruit from India, you can give me fruit and I can give you my music. Money is something just to be equal to exchange.
If you are watching a new TV series or a film and you don’t like it, and you watched for five minutes. You just pay for those five minutes. You can also pay for just 30 seconds or three seconds. Now it’s not possible, but that’s the way forward. In Telecom, you pay for the number of call minutes or seconds.
You can co-create in real time, adaptive media will be adapt for your behavior. You will listen to the same song, but with different mixing. With holograms, you don’t need real actors, anymore. You can create a perfect actor, with no ego.
Will Blockchain kill piracy?
Yes of course, because now you will have one Mastertape. No one will have another copy.
How did you get into the world of Blockchain?
I am from music, media and entertainment industry. Blockchain started as a peer-to-peer project in 1999. The first peer-to-peer project was Kazaa. I know the founders of Kazaa and I tried to find more about this technology because I was very angry about piracy. But it was not piracy; it was a peer-to-peer sharing. Later, the US government shut down Kazaa.
What will be the new normal? What happens to Indian Media and Entertainment and other pastimes? Writer, filmmaker & media guru Amit Khanna find answers to these questions, as he spells out how M&E sector will fare in a post-Covid-19 world
By Amit Khanna
In the past 5000 years, there have been perhaps less than 50 watershed events which have changed human history and life on the planet. Every mythology has its own definition of such epic events. Arguably in the 20th century, the most cataclysmic changes were triggered by the two World Wars. In retrospect, it is the Great War of 1914-18 (together with the Spanish Flu which was co-terminus with its end) perhaps is the most moment which changed the way we had lived earlier. Let’s not forget there are several modern inventions which came into use around the same time. Wireless and railways (a little earlier), Electricity, Telephone, Penicillin, Insulin, Processed food, Automobiles, Planes, Recorded music, Films, Radio, Television, Home appliances etc. It was also the first time when almost the entire world was impacted by the war in a far-reaching manner. Life changed forever. But, this was only expedited by rapid changing geopolitics economy and technology, which followed in the next few years until Second World War.
It was during the same time mass media enabled mass entertainment for the first time ever. The spectacular rise of newspapers, radio, films and — a little later — TV is virtually how humans continue to amuse themselves. In the last three decades, rapid digitalisation has not only changed media formats but given birth to the Internet, the present-day fountain head of information and entertainment. A 100 years later, a simple virus, COVID-19 or Coronavirus is about to change much of this. Let me stick my head out and say nothing in our past has altered our lives as much as the present pandemic. Germaine to this article is the way entertainment will emerge in the post Coronavirus world. If the last month, where almost the entire world is under lockdown, is any indication, the change will be much more than what we can even imagine at this stage. Existing occupations, jobs, habits, pastimes in fact from economy to lifestyle will change. It’s like looking into space and not blue skies. How does one predict what will happen?
LIFELINE FOR THE NATION
Media & Entertainment is a $2 trillion industry worldwide and $35 billion in India. Here, it is also one of the largest employers providing jobs to around 5 million people besides offering indirect employment to another 5 million. However, more than the financial aspect, while media is the news and information lifeline for the nation, entertainment keeps people engaged for over 5-6 hours a day. Entertainment is the safety valve of an overstressed society. A billion-plus people are hooked on to various devices, from a mobile phone to TV set, watching some programming. Over a crore of people visit a cinema theatre every day. Millions of others listen to the radio, attend live performances or play an online game. Countless folk artistes, classical musicians and dancers, puppeteers, acrobats drama troupes keep us entertained every day. From the beginnings of history, entertainment is one of humans’ great obsession. From creativity to commerce it’s an all-embracing activity.
Or they did till the coronavirus triggered a lockdown. What will happen when this Armageddon is over? How will people live after the 21st century Mahabharata ends? What will be the new normal? What happens to Media and Entertainment and other pastimes?
Let’s look at Cinema. I think visiting cinemas will now be an event rather than a casual outing. India has too few screens, only 9000 for such a large country, so they won’t shut down. However, new social distancing norms, for example, leaving every alternate seat blank, wearing masks may be mandatory, thermal checks, sanitisation and deep cleaning between shows will help in instilling confidence among cinema goers. Ticket booking and Food & Beverage sales will become online rather than physical sales to avoid crowding. Similarly, show timings will be staggered to avoid large gathering of people in and around the cinemas. Cinemas will be the weekly out of home experience for most Indians.
SCREEN & STREAM
What about films themselves? India presently makes 2000 films annually, of which less than half are released theatrically. This number is not sustainable. Going forward, not more than 200 to 300 films across languages will release in cinemas. The rest will have to rework their economics and work on a non-theatrical model. Increasingly, the number of films online through streaming services will increase dramatically. However, there is a limit to how much programming can one consume in a day. Some estimates suggest that 6 hours of engagement via multiple screens is the optimum for most people in a day. This engagement includes everything from social media, news, TV, gaming and films. While the pie will keep growing, the slices will become smaller. Talent and others in the value chain across various stakeholders have to rework their numbers.
Coming to television. Linear broadcasting already had an expiry date looming large. In India, it was still a decade away. This equation will change. I am not saying that TV channels will shut down. But, it’s time the broadcasters concentrate on lesser channels and more on compelling content. Competing programming, for example, talent contests by the dozen cannot survive. The same endless family sagas will disappear with audience fatigue faster. Attention deficit will yield to new social pressures. Most TV programmers in India have failed to innovate and will suffer consequently. Lazy creativity will just not work.
Driven by the false security of TV ratings, advertisers and their media buyers have been recklessly pumping money in mediocre content. In the new post-Corona world, lifestyle choices will drive up eyeballs but monetizing of these eyeballs will share and far more divided. The total number of hours of traditional broadcasting will increase in the immediate term but then, very quickly, the slide will begin.
For news, topicality is what determines viewership. The loss of credibility of TV news is directly linked to the personal biases of the channel and its anchors. I see the tendency of getting a dozen talking heads (all half-baked experts) night after night as a recipe for disaster in the time to come. With curated news available on the fly, apps like Google News and Daily Hunt will become the primary source of news.
Viewing habits are already changing among certain segments of the audience. The younger demographic is tuning on TV sets. More people will switch to on-demand viewing much quicker than before in the post-pandemic world. Increased bandwidth is just a matter of a year or so and data prices will continue to be among the cheapest in the world. In spite of an increase in data prices at least half the audience will engage with online content most of the time.
Digital entertainment so far in India has been dominated by short-form video and music. In recent months especially since the lockdown, there has been a sharp rise in streaming subscribers as well as time spent on such services. One of the reasons for the slow offtake of streaming video in India has been the wrong content. A minute section of the audience, the early adopters of Netflix, Amazon etc may be hooked on to dark content both foreign and Indian. However, the mainstream audience is still looking for entertainment they are used too.
FOR THE ATTN OF BOSSES
Of course one can move beyond banal overproduced and gauche soaps, but drama and romantic comedies are what will drive viewership in India. It is a matter of months before bosses at Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Apple, Sony and a handful of Indian platforms like MX Player, Zee 5 and Alt realise this and revamp their programming. Whether they have the financial muscle to scale up is another question. India is too big a market to dump elitist programming.
Even the stand-up comedy shows on a few of these platforms are too tangential for the large family audience in India. Gratuitous violence and profanity don’t make the programming appealing or engaging for a vast majority of Indians. A section of younger demographic especially the non-English speaking elite rather watch Savita Bhabhi clones on YouTube on their mobile phones than some of the zombie and dark content on streaming platforms. While online gaming globally is a huge business over USD 150 billion, in India it is relatively small. It will expand exponentially in the years to come. My prediction is it will be a USD 5 billion Industry in 3 to 5 years. Social media is spawning not only junk but more of the same. Ennui is a matter of time. How much of short-form video and trolling are self-destructing themselves to boredom?
One segment which will suffer a lot is Live entertainment and Live sport. For months they may remain an embargo in any event which requires large gatherings in closed spaces. Social distancing, masks, health checks and sanitisation are here to stay. The more worrying thing is that people, by and large, will be reluctant to venture out for live events in the years to come. A weak global economy with substantial job losses and wage cuts will not only lead to the tightening of belts but a change in discretionary spending habits. The silver lining for Event managers is the recent attempts at virtual concerts, performances and events. These may miss the vibe of live events but if executed well they can for a lot of people become a healthy alternative. The recent concerts- Sangeet Setu- organised by the Indian Singers Association (ISA) is one example of how virtual concerts may evolve.
NOT A PLAY THING
One of the biggest revenue earners entertainment is Live sports. From the Olympics to IPL, soccer and basketball almost every sport has both National and International tournaments and matches. In future, these will happen in controlled environments with far fewer spectators. Of course live broadcast and streaming will continue to attract eyeballs, sponsors and advertisers. In course of time stadia and arena with adequate health safeguards may be built to allow audience participation. I am worried about the way our traditional melas and religious fairs will shape up. It is impossible to have social distancing on such occasions at all. Some via media will emerge in due course. Folk artistes must be found in another form of monetisation to survive.
Some other segments like radio, OOH including billboards and digital displays, will carry on but advertising pressures will be an issue. Book fair, literary and film festivals are the other areas of concern. No matter how we wish the fear unleashed by Coronavirus is not going away soon if ever. I believe people will reprioritise their lives. Economic havoc is going to render millions jobless. Most of them do not have the wherewithal or the ability to reskill themselves. Even if they do find alternate employment or occupation they will in all likely earn less than earlier. We have already seen the first pink slips and salary cuts being announced across the media Industry. People will go out less, spend less, make alternative choices which means existing paradigms will change. Will all of them go back to buying newspapers anymore or simply switch to watching and reading news on TVs and smartphones? Will they subscribe to fewer channels. Will they cut down on going out? No one has the answers, but quite likely.
AD & MORE
In India advertising drives Media. I feel the ad spend will rise but its existing distribution will alter drastically. The reallocation will be much swifter than it would have been. Conventional metrics won’t work. For the next few years, the Economy will be under stress. Marketers will have to innovate to sell. The professional elite in Media & Industry too will have to take haircuts. Budgets will be redrawn. In films, stars will have to forgo part of their high salaries. Their entourages will have to be pruned. Lavish sets and wasteful extravagance in production of all content will have to lean towards frugal efficiency. The number of award shows, conferences, junkets even holidays will be truncated. Redundancies will leave the Industry badly mauled.
I am not predicting doomsday, only reset of existing norms. Yes, in 10 years from now global GDP will be at an all-time high and India will be a 10 trillion economy. The problem will be a lot of us will be on the side-lines nursing lost opportunities. This is the time to unlearn, relearn and reskill. Ideologies, history, dreams will change. We are about to see humanity reset.
(Credit: This article by Amit Khanna was originally published in exchange4media.com)
Everybody talks about the colors of India. Colors are magnificent. But the texture is fascinating, says John Bailey, acclaimed American cinematographer, film director and former President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Bailey along with wife Carol Littleton (Film Editor) was recently in Goa to attend the International Film Festival of India as head of International Jury for Competition films. In an exclusive interview with Pickle, he expresses his keenness to explore India to shoot a film
What has been your experience being at IFFI as head of International Jury for Competition Films?
It is truly international. IFFI has Indian Panorama and Indian section, but international competition is truly international. Some festivals (in Europe and Asia) tend to highlight and have a narrow focus. IFFI’s competition films are from everywhere. The films that Jury honor will be films that have real substance to them.
We have 92 countries competing for the best foreign film in Oscar foreign language category? But only one film wins. Is that enough?
Every competition has some kind of guidelines. For an example, we have a competition for screenwriters called the Nicholl Fellowship. It’s a screenwriting fellowship. There is a cash prize worth $35,000 for five winners for their next screenplay. The rule is that you have to be an unproduced writer. You cannot have had a commercial screenplay made. Each year we get 7,500 to 8,000 entries. That’s a lot more than 92 for the international films for foreign film features.
The Academy has a pretty good way of dealing with the foreign language films. Every film is shown in one of the two Academy theatres. And the voting is not based on the number of people who see it, but the ratings that the audience gives. And, then, of the 10 films that make it to the shortlist seven are chosen by the general committee. A smaller executive committee picks three more films that they feel are artistically very important which the general committee might have overlooked. All 10 films are screened together in early January on weekends. And, anybody in the Academy can see them. We project them in New York, Los Angeles, and London. They can also stream them. The five nominated films are chosen that way.
Each country has its own submitting committee. The Academy tries to evaluate how fair those committees are. However there are challenges too. Filmmakers may say that the film that was submitted this year was made by the sister-in-law of the President of the country or the Cultural Minister. And, this is not our best film. We have a special meeting where we look at all of our challenges. And there are guidelines that most of the filmmakers have to come from the country of submission. You cannot have a film submitted by Morocco that was made by French people even if it was shot in Morocco.
How do you see streaming services taking over? Will the future be different for Oscars?
The only thing that will change is change itself. Change is constant. What the changes will be, we are yet to know. The Academy, just like film organizations, film distributors, audiences, is very uncertain right now. Change and uncertainty has been the history of motion pictures from the very beginning. Because unlike some of the other arts, which are made by smaller groups of people or painters, motion pictures involve lot of people and lot of money. Therefore, money and finance play a large role. That’s a given. As long as there is a change in shifting between art and commerce, we are going to have these challenges.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I can tell you this. A lot of people—I am not saying older conservative people, but some young people—feel that the essence of a motion picture is being seen in a dark room on a large screen with an audience; where you go some place and you surrender yourself to a collective experience. It is not you and your living room, coming and going, turning it on, hitting a pause button. You yield yourself and your life for the time and experience to surrender yourself to it. And, a lot of people feel, if we give that away, then we no longer are making motion pictures. Therefore, it is called the Academy of Motion Pictures of Arts & Sciences, and not the Academy of Streaming Movies.
For instance, Netflix is buying several movie theatres. They have had to rent a Broadway live theatre to show Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’. It costs them a lot of money to retrofit a Broadway theatre. That’s crazy. They are trying to buy theatres and show their movies on larger screens. Studios like Disney and Paramount are starting their streaming platforms. So, if Paramount is making streaming content, I am not just talking about distribution. I am talking about creating original content. Then, what is a motion picture studio.
How did 2019 turn out for you?
Carol and I have traveled a lot. We have been to many countries. We were in India in May this year after we got an award at Cannes Film Festival — insignia of Officer des Arts et Letters (Officer In The Order Of Arts And Letters). We were in Telluride, Morelia International Film Festival; we went to Poland, Toru Film Festival, where they gave me a Lifetime Achievement Award. We flew directly from Warsaw to India (Goa), via Doha. We have to pack our suitcases for extreme weather. It was five degrees in Poland and 32 degrees in Goa.
What are your plans for 2020?
I want to continue to work as a director of photography. If I find a good screenplay and good director, I will do that. Otherwise, I would continue to write. I enjoy writing very much. I wanted to write a book on my life and reflections on how my life was defined by movies in five decades. I joined the Union in May 1969. I was a camera assistant for eight years and a camera operator for almost four years. And then, became a Director of Photography in 1978.
How has been your experience in India?
In some other countries where I go, where the country is small or the culture is contained, you feel like you know the country after you visit one or two places. But India is many countries in one. It has many cultures, many ethnicities of which I know only a very small part. We have been to Delhi in North, we were in Mumbai and Goa, but we have not even touched the South of India or East of India. There is a huge country left for us to explore. I will definitely come back, if someone asks me to.
Being in India is such an intense experience. We see so many people. There are so many things to see and hear. It is like having a very rich meal. The sense of culture and happenings is so intense for us because we are quite people back home.
You are a cinematographer. What does your eyes tell you when you see India? Will you do a film in India?
I would love to do a film in India. It is incredible. Everybody talks about the colors of India. Colors are magnificent. But the texture is fascinating. Older concreted buildings are abandoned, but not torn down. I live in a country, where as soon as something is old, they tear it down and put a new one up. Talking about color and contrast, we went to Agra and visited Taj Mahal. I was amazed at the texture of the walls and how smooth it was. People talk about light or color composition. These are all important. But to me as a cinematographer, texture and the light that reveal itself in motion picture creates a sense of depth.
As a cinematographer, is doing a web series same compared to doing a motion picture?
If you look at my credits, I have done only a few TV movies. Even as a camera assistant and operator, I have done only feature films. And, I cannot help or work to think as a feature cinematographer. I am very committed to anamorphic aspect ratio of 240, which in the 1990 was starting to die-off. It was not popular. But with the digital camera, almost every film that we have seen in this international competition has been shot in the 240 aspect ratio. Somehow, shooting in 240 says shooting feature films because TV and streaming is almost 185. So, if you want to really make a statement and say it is a motion picture, not a TV movie or a streaming movie you shoot in 240.