She is the person responsible for giving NFDC (National Film Development Corporation) a new lease of life. Interestingly Nina Lath Gupta, MD, NFDC comes from an administrative background and that has served as a boon to her present role. She loves watching all kinds of cinema and works towards upping the game for Film Bazaar year after year. We caught up with her at Film Bazaar 2015. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

Nina Lath Gupta

Nina Lath Gupta

What drives Film Bazaar and what is your vision for it?

Film Bazaar is a platform to enable development and positioning of projects with a view to making them available in the market both internationally and in India.

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On what basis do you curate films?

We are primarily looking for good content and the ability to tell a story well. That will be the driving parameter.

Compared to last year, there have been quite a few new additions to Film Bazaar this year.  What was the thought process behind those including the new Labs?

The thought process behind every new addition every year, not just this year, has always been perceiving the gap in the industry and trying to fulfill it. Each of these segments has come around as a result of that thinking. The Film Tourism Workshop is a new addition so is Children’s Lab. There is a gap in that (children’s cinema) sector. 30-40 per cent of our youth are kids and yet we don’t have children’s content in this country. You don’t have cinema for children. So that was a huge gap that we felt needed to be fulfilled.

Do you think Film Bazaar has created a definitive platform for films and filmmakers?

That’s a feedback that you would get from the industry. I think, somewhat immodestly, that yes, we have played a defining role. We have changed the pattern of cinema that is being introduced in the country today. Maybe cinema is not doing so well. But going forward it will, because growth is always slow and steady. It’s never overnight. The kind of films that are being distributed today whether it’s Miss Lovely, The Lunchbox, B A Pass, Masaan, Titli, Ship of Theseus, Qissa and others,  there is a range of storytelling among these films. None of them are the same and yet they are all getting released in the market. They are all being seen by people. It might be a small proportion but that proportion will change with time. So yes I think that NFDC has played a huge defining role in that.

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You mentioned that there are several categories like Romance, Children’s cinema etc. that have a huge gap in the industry. After NFDC’s initiatives what and how do you see improving or progress being made?

I think it will happen slowly. Like I said earlier, it never happens overnight. But out of the six children’s projects, two have already been picked up to go to Sweden to explore partnerships. It’s not that there is disinterest but filmmaking is a slow process. I think every year there is a growth and you climb one step of the ladder in respect of every section.

Nina Lath Gupta with Shyam Benegal on Day 1 of Film Bazaar

Nina Lath Gupta with Shyam Benegal on Day 1 of Film Bazaar

Doordarshan earlier had films being made specifically for children through CFSI. With that not happening anymore, the whole market for children’s films has been affected. Your thoughts?

That’s my point. There is very little children’s cinema happening. It is nothing to do with CFSI; they are doing a good job and producing films but there is scope for so much more in this country. And we (NFDC) are not producing films. We are only developing screenplays for children. So these screenplays may actually go to the CFSI later for funding. But that development process that needed to be initiated for children’s cinema was what we introduced this year.

Big studios have started backing films like Titli, Dum Laga Ke Haisha and the likes. What role do they play in the scheme of things?

I’m truly very grateful to the studios for picking up these projects and releasing them. Yashraj picked up two Film Bazaar projects while Viacom has released so many of them. Some of the other studios have released some of these projects.

They have distribution strength, which is not just in terms of P&A money, but it’s also in terms of a clout in the market. Distribution is a very high risk and traditional market. A distributor or exhibitor would work with people they know. Studios can negotiate a blockbuster release with a small film and put this small film out in the market; something that an NFDC cannot necessarily do. So it wouldn’t have happened without their active participation.

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Do you think that studio distribution and critique reception is not reflecting in the audience yet?

Audiences always need their time and as they open up to more storytelling, they become more inventive and more experimental in their viewing choices. You must remember that all of us also live in the context of a country, which is a price sensitive economy. Theatre viewing is an expensive experience for most people in this country. But the change is slowly taking place.

Could NFDC get into exhibition of independent cinema?

Exhibition is a very local endeavor. It’s not something you can run from the center. NFDC can handhold and try to build a system that enables the building of an exhibition structure in the country. But can’t run a theatre locally by sitting in Mumbai. It has to be the local person on the spot who is running the theatre.

With Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore

With Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore

Do you think multiplexes should have separate ticketing/ pricing for indie films?

It’s not for me to comment on that. Multiplexes need to decide what they want to do. But I certainly believe that there is a huge space and potential for low-cost ticketed theatres in this country.

What lies next for Film Bazaar?

Upping the quality and the game every year and presenting better and better projects. We are still a work-in-progress as far as international markets are concerned. I would like to see a year when five Indian films make it to Cannes. And it happens with cinema of other countries, so it’s not impossible. I think we have far more exciting cinema.

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Are you a filmmaker yourself?

No. I’m an administrator, a career bureaucrat.

What kind of films do you personally enjoy watching?

In all honesty, I watch very few films. I don’t get the time and would like to watch much more that I currently do. But I’m open to all kinds of cinema

Anything specific films that drew you this year?

Masaan was absolutely stunning. And Piku was lovely too. Every dialogue had a sub text and subtlety that you enjoy. It flowed effortlessly.

-Inputs from Rahul Ahuja. Transcribed by Esha Verma