How banks changed Indian cinema

Can co-production help cinematographers of the former USSR?

The phenomenon of Indian cinema and if countries of the former Union can make an ambitious and globally competitive film by uniting in production were discussed at a panel session of KazanForum. It turned out that banks that started to consider cinematographers as businesspeople was the reason for the Indian success.

We are so different, in documents

The absence of Tatarkino’s head Milyausha Autyganova among speakers of the meeting named Cinema Production As Driver of Economic Development of the Region was surprising. It turned out she invited all guests to the discussion but her PCR test result couldn’t be uploaded to the system, this is why the organisers didn’t let her to join the forum. But Aytuganova had something to say as a producer of Sumbul (with Uzbekistan) and Tarlan (shot mainly in Kazakhstan) films.

After the dissolution of the USSR, every country develops cinema a bit differently. For instance, Chairman of the Union of Cinematographers of Kyrgyzstan Taalaybek Kulmendeyev said they had a concept Kyrzgyzstan — Open Natural Site. One can go there to shoot all year round. Belarusfilm promotes impressive production capacities: projects with Russia, Uzbekistan are underway now, Bashkortostan was mentioned separately. It is planned to work with India and Syria.

Azerbaijan has a lot of joint works on documentaries, with Lendocom, for instance, with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Russia is preparing an investigative film about the main Petersburg mosque. Though now a project about Mullah Nasreddin is developed.

“A very big problem in co-production, cooperation has to do with legal and financial kinks,” indicated Nazim Khuseinov, director of Azerbaijanfilm film studio. Considering that legislation of all the countries that gained independence after the dissolution of the USSR is different from each other in some moments. This is the problem — taxation issues, legal documents. This influences production.”

Half for shooting, half for actors

Moderator, Programme Director of Moscow International Film Festival Ivan Kudryavtsev was mostly interested in the experience of neurosurgeon Mohammed Tahsin Nazim, the founder and co-owner of Indian Films Russian company and India’s Zakaria Entertainment.

His father is Saudi, his mother is Indian. He grew up in Britain but decided to spread the cinema of his ancestors’ homeland in Russia bring it back from the Internet to cinema. In particular he talked about Baahubali: The Beginning film, which collected 6 billion with a budget of 1.2 billion rupee.

“Cinema here is actors’ industry. If the average film budget is a billion, 500 million is the mid-class actors’ royalty payment. The rest is spent on production. But it easily pays back, in two or three weeks. In the industry, when the production started, the film is already sold to TV and so on,” Tahsin explained.

Tahsin says that a film based on Ramayana with a budget of 6 billion rupee is about to be released. Moreover, there is tax refund for cinema in India, but financial assistance from the state is small, for neophytes.

About five films a year shot in Russia that have a comparable budget with Indian cinema. In Azerbaijan, for instance, the situation is different. Here almost all money on full-length films come from the ministry of culture and through a special cinema agency since this year. Up to $1.5 million is given on average. At the same time, Khuseinov noted that Indian series are made even in Baku.

“Any cooperation gives us an opportunity to make ourselves known,” said Dmitry Davidenko, director of a department of the Russian Ministry of Culture, “that we can make a quality product too. And that we all are humans, there are topics that are understandable in China, India, in our friendly countries. When we can show a universal story, we can say the second or third project can be a business project. The first project is a kind of social project.”

“We could take projects with such a budget and make very competitive, ambitious cinema to the market by uniting efforts,” Kudryavtsev concluded. However, this didn’t cause enthusiasm among the speakers, like even if everybody gathers, there isn’t going to be raised such money, some will be paid in taxes. Yes, there are more spectators in India.

“This started after banks started to secure money invested in cinema. When the state signed a document that cinema was an industry. Banks started to grant loans on films, this seriously changed the situation,” Tahsin stressed. “Here, banks don’t understand that it is a business, it is huge money.”

As a result, Indian cinema sales have increased sixfold in the last five years. And this certainly has nothing to do with Indian spectators only. This means Indian cinema has turned into a global trend. And only because it is considered a business in India.

Radif Kashapov