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The Films Division, that hoary old institution, seems to be waking up to the fact that it has some valuable stuff in its archives.
Taking up a suggestion from a group of independent film makers, it has has set up a Film Club that meets every Saturday at 4 pm in Mumbai. There are similar plans for other Indian cities as well. The meetings, free and open to all, will revisit films from FD’s archives and screen them alongside independent films of different genres. There will be screenings, discussions, brain-storming sessions, master-classes, workshops: the entire gamut of film-related activities.
In Mumbai, the venue is the RR Theatre, 10th floor, Films Division, 24, Pedder Road, Mumbai 26. (The Films Division building is located at the traffic signal diagonally opposite Jaslok Hospital.)
How did this start? Surabhi Sharma, film maker and old college buddy, told me, "It is really a FD initiative, we are just part of the initial brainstorming. I was on a review panel at FD, and the new Director General and the panel began talking about how to make FD a space that is buzzing. My take was that if FD gets curious and interested in what independent film-makers are doing, there would begin a conversation with independent film-makers. Then Avijit Mukul, Pankaj Rishi Kumar, Madhavi Tangella and I met the DG over longer stretches and starting making lists of films. All four of us are FD film junkies as well; we all have at some point or the other spent time looking at old FD films."
We asked VS Kundu, Director General, Films Division, a few questions via email.
What is the goal of the Films Division film club?
To create a regular and stable space for (1) screening of non-feature films; (2) discussions, interactions, and sharing of knowledge and ideas among people having varied (professional, student, cinephile etc ) interest in films.
Let me also share why we want to do it. The mainstream cinema compromises too much for marketability and business considerations, yet it occupies almost wholly the entire screening space in the country, again due to business considerations of the screen-owners. Cinema of the other kinds, including documentaries, short films, issue-based shorts and features, in fact all films not made purely for box office success, get squeezed out of exhibition opportunities. Similarly, audience wanting to see these films can't get to do that for the same reason. We want to create a platform to satisfy this need for both groups, on a sustained basis.
Who selects the films?
The idea is to screen good films of Films Division as well as independent film-makers. So we invite an independent film-maker, or a small group of them to curate the films for each month. They themselves select the theme and the films to be screened, and plan the interactions following the screenings.
Are there any plans to take this effort to other venues, within Bombay, but also to other cities?
Yes. We want it to emerge as a pan-India film club network, with it's presence in even Tier Two and Tier Three cities. The spread will be gradual, as we find interested groups of cinephiles and professionals whom we can work with. Already, film clubs are in the process of being set up in New Delhi, Jaipur and Bengaluru.
Will there be webcasts? Are there any plans to use the internet to reach more people?
Definitely we will go for webcasting. However, that will be another stream, quite separate from the film clubs. We, in Films Division, will set up a video portal to set up different marketing channels on various electronic platforms. This will be primarily set up for marketing of the FD films. However, we will make it available to all independent film-makers as well, on easy revenue-sharing basis, to help them market their films. We plan to create similar marketing avenues for FD and independent film-makers in other areas - DVD retail, theatrical circuits and telecasting etc.
Could you give us an idea of some of the films you plan to show in the near future?
I Am Twenty by SNS Sastry and John and Jane by Ashim Ahluwalia are being screened today.* On 21st July, Ashish Chadha will present his film Miles to Go and Sukhdev's India 67.
In the following weeks, these films will be screened. The list may change depending on the curator and the feedback.
Kamla Bai by Reena Mohan
Tracing Phalke by Kamal Swaroop
The Great Indian School Show by Avinash Deshpande
Mera Apna Shehr by Samira Jain
Two part series on home videos by Pankaj Rishi Kumar
Mindscapes of Love and Longing by Arun Chadha
Summer by Nishit
Continuous Journey by Ali Kazmi
Night Mail by Basil Wright
Lifelines of Bombay
Journey by Vinayan Kodoth
Ladies Special by Nidhi Tuli
How do interested film-lovers find out more and keep in touch?
The Films Division has an official website filmsdivision.org, and a Facebook page. Most information is available on these. Soon we will launch a website for the club, too. We are looking for people in other cities to join in this venture by forming a film club with Films Division. They should contact email@example.com for further details.
* This interview was conducted on the 14th July, before the first meeting of the club.