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Thanu For Making Producers’ Mission Possible

admin   March 1, 2021

Kalaipuli S Thanu, President of the Film Federation of India, has lined up a series of initiatives to find solutions to the challenges faced by the film industry. “I subscribe to the school of thought of watching films in a big screen in pitch darkness among audiences,” industry leader and producer Thanu tells Pickle.

Kalaipuli S Thanu, is the President, Film Federation of India for the year 2021-22. He is one of India’s top film producers and distributors. His latest production ‘Karnan’ starring Dhanush, which comes after the duo struck gold in ‘Asuran’, seems to have struck a chord with the audience even before its release. The prolific producer says it all in his latest tweet- It’s 1 crore+ views for #KandaaVaraSollunga Thanks for showering your tremendous love and support for #Karnan.

This kind of response for his movies is not new, for Thanu’s track record boasts of several commercial and critically acclaimed films. The owner of V Creations and Kalaipuli Films International, also holds a special place in Tamil cinema’s history, for being the one who christened actor Rajinikanth with the title ‘Superstar’. Starting off as a distributor in the late 1970s, Thanu’s meteoric rise to one of India’s most popular producers is a success story by itself. Some of his highest grossers over the years include Cooliekkaran, Kizhakku Cheemayile, Kandukondein Kandukondein, Kaakha Kaakha, Thuppakki, Theri, Kabali and the recent Asuran. Not to mention his revolutionary ways when it comes to promoting his movies.

In 2016, movie-goers were in for a surprise, when they got to see posters of actor Rajinikanth and his film Kabali, on commercial flights. It was for the first time in the history of Indian cinema, an airline had dedicated an aircraft to a movie, thanks to Thanu. Apart from his work on movies, Thanu has also been known to voice his opinion on various issues related to the industry. Last month, when the Tamil Nadu government withdrew its permission to allow 100 percent occupancy in cinema halls owing to the pandemic, Thanu, being the president of the Film Federation of India, wrote to Home Minister Amit Shah, requesting him to allow 100 per cent occupancy at least on festival days like Pongal and Republic Day. As an industry leader, Thanu has implemented various reforms and rejuvenation measures for the welfare of the industry in general and producers in particular. He is also known for encouraging young talents.

The National-award winning producer recently added the State government’s Kalaimamani Award to his kitty, which was conferred in recognition of his stellar work in cinema. Excerpts from an interview with him.

What will be your major focus as president of Film Federation of India?

My major objective will be to fight for the rights of the film producers. We need more transparency and unity among various stakeholders of the film industry. This is critical today. We all need to work together to bring back film audiences to theatres to watch films.

The global interest in India and in Indian films has increased in recent times. We are still battling the impact of coronavirus pandemic. Globally, the vaccination programme has begun. It is a positive sign. While the mainstream commercial Indian film sector continues to grow, a new crop of Indian filmmakers has emerged in recent times. This is reflected in the Indian films that have been selected in various global film festivals including Cannes, Toronto, Venice, Busan among others. In recent times, global film festivals have celebrated works of all hues from the diverse movie-making traditions from India. We are extremely proud and happy to celebrate 100th anniversary of Satyajit Ray this year. This is a momentous occasion.

Indian cinema needs to expand its global footprint to get its films widely distributed in new emerging world territories. We need to export and showcase Indian films, heritage and culture to the world. We need to scale up the business and create content factories for the world.

What are your views on the OTT platforms for the film industry?

OTT is just another revenue stream for a producer to exploit IP of a film. It is similar to selling music rights to music publisher, selling DVD rights to a home entertainment company or selling film rights to an airline. OTT is just one of the platforms like a cinema theatre for exhibiting a film. India produces over 1,800 films a year. OTT platforms could afford to get just a couple of hundred films. Over 200 Tamil films are produced every year. Major OTT platforms have room to buy only a dozen big films. Or a small budget film, when it is successful. We welcome OTT platforms. It is a good medium for consumers and a refreshing home entertainment. I subscribe to the school of thought of watching films in a big screen in pitch darkness among audiences. That’s real enjoyment.

You have been very vocal on fighting against piracy…

When a new film is out in the market it instantly gets copied and released in pirated websites. By this Copyright infringement, the film and its producer suffer the most. It has been going on and on. No one could stop this menace. But, there is a way out. When the Government has the power to remove adult/obscene content, it could also stop films being illegally copied, uploaded and streamed in pirated websites and apps.

We will soon be meeting up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javdekar and Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad and emphasize the need to protect films and strict action against pirates (wherever they are). A team comprising celebrities, influencers, film industry leaders representing regional cinemas across India will emphasize the need to stop illegal exploitation of copyrighted films. In the post pandemic times, this is the need of the hour. The film industry has suffered the most.

We have been constantly fighting this menace for more than two decades. Today, we are confident that our prayers will be answered by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

What is the biggest challenge for a film producer today? In post pandemic times, what is the need of the hour?

In majority of the films made in India, the producer of the film suffers the most. The producer invests and facilitates in the making of the film. He risks in investing big amounts for the production and promotion of the film. An intermediary like an online ticket booking company gets a confirmed per ticket share than a producer. We want to fight this out. In current times, there are several challenges to movie exhibitors. OTT platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix have been innovating pricing models. We need to bring that flexible ticket pricing for exhibitors. The government should allow cinemas to deploy flexible ticket pricing. Various state governments in India should allow theatres to charge higher ticket prices for blockbusters, holidays and opening weekends. At the same time, there should be flexibility in offering discounts and flexibility in pricing for small independent films. We need to innovate to get people to get into cinemas. This would also result in net revenue tax collections for the government. This would bring cheers to the producer, distributor and exhibitor.

Indian film industry faces the biggest obstacle from Animal Welfare Board of India. We all know that a goat is slaughtered and its meat served for eating. This is same story for many land animals killed and eaten. But when we show a sparrow in a film, we are accused of harming the sparrow. We are asked to create animals on VFX and CG.


Featured Post

Indie Resurgence

admin   August 29, 2019

Driven by a fresh burst of energy, a new breed of independent filmmakers are delivering films based on their own individualistic visions, erasing the gap between the socially meaningful and the commercially viable Indian cinema – By Saibal Chatterjee

Mediocrity is mainstream Indian cinema’s comfort zone. It has always been. But today, being middling is more than just an old habit for filmmakers seeking easy ways to achieve runaway commercial success. It has become a necessity. Low-grade, star-driven commercial cinema and its purveyors are being gleefully embraced by both the masses and the official agencies charged with the promotion of film culture in the country.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that an unabashedly misogynistic film like
Arjun Reddy hits the box-office bull’s eye. Its Hindi remake, Kabir Singh, made by the same director with a different actor, does even better.

Another easy-to-sell category of cinema has emerged, especially in Mumbai, over the past few years: adulatory biopics and puff jobs. These are films that are either aggressively jingoistic (Uri: The Surgical Strike, RAW: Romeo Akbar Walter) or are unabashed extended, fictionalized public service adverts (Toilet: Ek Prem Katha). Taking the line of least resistance pays instant dividends. These films not only make pots of money but also often go on to win national awards at the cost of essays that are leagues ahead in cinematic terms.

But for a new breed of independent filmmakers who are consciously pulling away from the crowd and following their own individualistic visions to deliver films aimed at erasing the gap between the socially meaningful and the commercially viable, Indian cinema today would have worn the looks of a hopeless wasteland.

Mercifully, even filmmakers working in the mainstream space – Pa. Ranjith and Vetrimaaran in Chennai and Anurag Kashyap and Anubhav Sinha in Mumbai – do not shy away from hitting political hot-buttons and questioning gender presumptions in stories couched in popular narrative formulations.

When Vetrimaaran makes Vada Chennai, he ensures that it isn’t any ordinary gangster flick. He infuses it with a social resonance that communicates truths about a city and society in ways that are beyond the reach of less clued-in filmmakers. Pretty much the same is true of Pa. Ranjith. His two Rajinikanth vehicles, Kabali and Kaala, have a strong caste struggle sub-text delivered in a style that never strays into the preachy and boring. Ranjith also recently produced Mari Selvaraj’s Pariyerum Perumal, the story of a boy from an oppressed caste struggling to ward of continuing discrimination.

Ranjith is now in the midst of directing his first Hindi-language film – a drama based on the life of tribal freedom fighter Birsa Munda. The choice of hero is a natural progression for a filmmaker whose cinema has probed the place of the deprived and dispossessed in a society where power flows from religious identity and caste allegiance.

Important elements dovetailed into the plot of Anurag Kashyap’s boxing drama Mukkabaaz also reflects the political consciousness of the maker. The ills of the caste system have also been laid bare in stark detail in Anubhav Sinha’s Article 15. The film is a worthy follow-up to Sinha’s Mulk, which addressed the issue of Islamophobia head-on. We might argue that Indian films still haven’t gone far enough to call out patriarchy and the Brahmanical order. But the very fact that some films are making an attempt, no matter a feeble, is itself a sign of the changing times.

A fresh burst of energy is driving independent filmmakers not just in Tamil
Nadu and Kerala but also in Mumbai. The primary space in debutant Madhu C. Narayanan’s Malayalam film Kumbalangi Nights, scripted by Syam Puskaran, is the home of four brothers who have no woman in their lives. The siblings are all flawed, scalded individuals until women enter their lives and make them see life and love in a different light. The film is an examination of masculinity that turns the entire notion of patriarchy on its head.

Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s daringly innovative multi-plot drama Super Deluxe is a film that throws caution to the wind and yet comes with such astounding formal precision that one cannot but watch in awe and applaud. Kumararaja throws four sub-plots into a giant, constantly whirring grinder and emerges with a film so fascinating and so wondrously inventive that one is caught by surprise at every turn.

Super Deluxe subverts our expectations at every turn. A couple is thrown into turmoil following the death of the woman’s ex-boyfriend in her bed. A father of a boy returns to his family after a seven-year absence in the guise of a transwoman. A schoolboy who bunks school with his friends to watch a pornographic film flies into a rage on discovering that his mother is an adult movie actress. Four friends get into terrible tangle with the underworld in an attempt to wriggle out of a minor jam.

The fast-paced, almost breathless film delivers a dazzling kaleidoscope of an urban landscape where every single day is as strange and disconcerting as the previous one. Super Deluxe is testimony to what younger Tamil filmmakers are capable of as storytellers and craftsmen.

The new Malayalam cinema, too, is going through a wonderfully fecund phase. Three films made by Kerala directors are in two of world’s major festivals this year. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Chola (Shape of Water) premieres at the Venice Film Festival while Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikattu and Getu Mohandas’s Moothon are in the Toronto International Film Festival. Sasidharan’s S Durga won the Hivos Tiger Award at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam a couple of years ago, the first Indian film to bag the prize.

Lijo is, of course, also a name to reckon with. He is in the midst of a urple patch., Before Jallikattu, he delivered two absolutely stunning films – Angamaly Diaries and Ee. Ma. Yau – both of which prove his grasp over the medium and his phenomenal ability to handle a multiplicity of actors within single uninterrupted sequences.

The first world that spring to mind when watching a Lijo film is dynamism, the kind that can be extremely infectious. It would be no exaggeration if we were to suggest that he, along with Sasidharan, are the ones who are propelling the resurgence of Malayalam cinema on the global stage. We expect more surprises as filmmakers from Kerala reclaim the place they had in international festivals in the 1980s and a part of the 1990s.