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'There are more stone walls than ways out right now' Many cooperatives and banks lent money to individual filmmakers in the past, but do the "creative" entrepreneurs of today have as much access to funding?

By Nitin Abbey

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A film critic, screenwriter, film director and journalist, Khalid Mohamed, wears many hats. On talking to him on the overall funding scenario in the Hindi film industry dearly termed as Bollywood, it gets revealed that the grass is greener only for the "big names" and the independent filmmaking scene is in a dire need of funding. Many cooperatives and banks lent money to individual filmmakers in the past, but do the "creative" entrepreneurs of today have as much access to funding?

Shed some light on the funding scene in the entertainment industry.

The scene is very muddled. Earlier, banks used to loan individual filmmakers. There were cooperatives and societies that used to come together to raise money. The NFDC (National Film Development Corporation) earlier used to fund the big independent films. They provided filmmakers with co-production facilities. Their policies used to assure a minimum fiscal investment of 30 per cent of the total cost of the film project, but today it is reduced only to marketing.

On the other hand, film producers want to pay you nominal amount for the same work, unless you are at the very top. For instance, a big A-list Bollywood director will get something like Rs 10-12 crore for a film and a person who is not so commercial will get something like Rs 15 lakh.

But the producer has to earn money in order to relay it to everyone, right?

I have to, as a director, get bucks back for my investors. I cater to the worst-case scenario and strive to make the money back for the producer with a bit of profit. I'm also hinting at the economic disparities that are there. For instance, a film I made in Rs 2 crore would hit the screens with a total spend of Rs 10 crore, as the costs of advertisements and marketing will add to the total. Investors expect to earn more than the total spend, which is unreasonable and unrealistic.

What is your view about crowd-funding as an option to raise funds?

There are agencies that contact you for crowd-funding and want you to do all the dirty work by yourself. Moreover, you have to pay them with 10-20 per cent commission, so it doesn't work for me.

What challenges are you facing today as a director?

I have made documentaries where my cinematographer and editors have chipped in for money. I didn't get a rupee for the Last Irani Chai, but I always wanted to do that film and I am glad I did it. The second one, Little Big People, too was self-funded because I thought it is exciting to do a film on a handycam, but I'd put Rs 5-6 lakh sans any return. About 90 per cent of the money in both projects was put in by me.

I feel there is no dignity of labour in going independent. I have just made a documentary on Shyam Benegal, which turned out to be a major project because his career is immense, but I need to make some money back. I don't understand why people with money bags are doing sham projects instead of looking for creatively driven filmmakers.

Shall we say the funding scene is not headed anywhere right now?

There are more stone walls than ways out right now, but it can be done by anyone who wants to make a product and then spend at least one year marketing it. Ask me, being a journalist, I am not cut out for this kind of long term investment in one project. I just move on.

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