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August - September 2008


And you thought it is for Good cinema

by Nikhil Gajendragadkar

Why films are made? Just for entertainment and business? Then what is artistic expression in Cinema? Now corporate giants are entering the film world in a big way. But will this move promote meaningful, good cinema?

Big names always make big news. Besides politics, celebrities from corporate and world of cinema are darlings of modern media. And when people from these two fields come together, they make a splash. That is what happened when Reliance Big declared its Hollywood plans . Reliance Big Entertainment Ltd. is a part of the industrial empire owned by Anil Ambani. He has entered show business with not only élan but might also. He has big dreams, big American dreams.

Rbel announced its foray into west at Cannes film festival in May. Timing was perfect . Rbel intends to produce films in USA, that is, it is entering Hollywood.With a whooping investment of 1 billion US Dollars. They have roped in top Hollywood stars like Tom Hanks George Clooney ,Brad Pitt, Jim Carrey etc.

But when the news of Rbel joining hands with none other than Steven Spielberg made front page headlines, everybody was astonished. It says, Ambani will pump another 500 million $ to form a joint venture with Dream Works. Hollywood is getting a strong dose of its own medicine. There are others also who have Hollywood dreams and Hollywood production companies also are interested in tie ups and collaborations with Indian companies.. So UTV is a producer of an American film(the Happening) and Walt Disney is investing heavily in Yash Raj productions .But it is clear that Rbel wants to be a major player in the field of Entertainment Business.

Apart from the Hollywood venture, Rbel has inked another JV with the Bachchans, yes all family members,Amitabh,Jaya,Abhishek and Aishwarya will be part of this JV.According to the company release, ‘creative know how of the Bachchan family and business acumen of Reliance ADAG will create magic.’ But why single out this family? There are several talented people in Indian cinema. If one considers status and command on the box office, then Rajanikant or just Rajani is reigning supreme. His last film ‘Shivaji the Boss’ did extremely well .Kamal Hassan is not far behind. There are good actors and stars in Bengali cinema too. Why this big company is not backing directors like Girish Kasarvalli or Shyam Benegal or Adoor Gopalkrishnan ?These are internationally acclaimed big names who have proved their worth as thinking, artistic filmmakers. Over the years such film makers have worked hard to create films which say some thing about human nature, human relationship,. Their films made viewers think about human being and society ,reality around us; that is ‘Good Cinema’ But Rbel is cautious, they do not want to experiment. They are putting in lots of money-it is their investmentand they want good, assured ‘returns’. The company has three main lines of business-internet and new media, films (or filmed entertainment as western media puts it) and TV broadcasting. So they have a social networking site(where you will find a blog by Amitabh) FM radio ,online gaming, mobile gaming, theme park, etc. Recently Rbel picked up 50% stake in art director Nitin Desai’s ND studio. It seems Rbel aspires to be the ‘complete entertainment/media company’.

They are thinking of producing 25 to 30 feature films and 7-8 animation films in next two years only. Reliance Entertainment has an arm named “Big” which manages theatres, in hundreds ,in India and abroad .Because exhibition is a key component in the Entertainment business. Later this ‘big’ was incorporated in the parent company’s name and it became Reliance Big Entertainment Ltd. This scenario is similar to American film industry, where big studios own everything. And business conglomerates control studios. Even in the era of silent films also, studios or major film makers had a solid grip on every aspect of film b u s i n e s s .

There is nothing wrong in it per se. But the important question here is, which kind of “Cinema” this giant is trying to promote? Film was and is a business.

True. Because it involves a lot of expenditure. So a filmmaker must make money out of every film he / she creates. But still a film is a work of art. There were many filmmakers who made films with very little or no money at all. Story of making of “Pather Panchali” is by now famous. Then state government of West Bengal came to rescue of Satyajit Ray. The film made history. Bimal Roy made “Madhumati” when he really had no money. He used to buy raw stock when little sum allowed him. The film was a hit. That helped him to make more films. Yet he did not make “Do Bigha Zameen” or “Bandini” just to entertain people. European filmmakers like Antonioni or Fellini did not put an “item song” to attract crowd to theatre.These and many such filmmakers had a passion for Cinema, the medium. They wanted to ‘say something’ with every film they made.

What is happening now is an attempt to mass produce mass entertainers. Commercial products to be sold on mass scale.Where celebrity a n d dazzling visuals are more important than ‘content’ and ‘meaning’ of a film. These products will turn “viewers” in to ‘consumers’. Thought provoking films will become obsolete. What will be offered to us as an entertainment, will make us forget the world around us, and more importantly, reality. But who cares for that? They mean business. Investment is meant to generate more money .And you thought, it is for the ‘good cinema’ ...!

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