SPECIAL INTERVIEW with- Ravinder Bhakar
You are now heading not only CBFC, NFDC, Children’s Film Society of India and The National Film Archives of India but have also been made Director- General, Films Division and Director, MIFF 2022 too. How tough or easy has it been for you to take over as the Director General of The Films Division as well as the Festival Director Mumbai International Film Festival, 2022?
Basically, at the outset, I should thank the Honourable Minister Anuragji Thakur of The Information & Broadcasting Ministry for having bestowed on me not only the responsibility of managing the MIFF this year but also the job of conducting the festival as the latest Director General of The Films Division
What do you want to say about the MIFF?
It is a prestigious festival which sets out to promote the short films, documentaries and animation films once in every two years right from the time it came in inception way back thirty years ago in 1990. It is quite challenging to function as the Director of the festival because in the first place after the dreaded pandemic had set in two years ago, there has been a reduction in the number of films made all over the globe and it is a tough task to curate a festival which has this kind of a magnitude this year after a gap of two and a half years after the last MIFF which was held in January 2020
Wasn’t MIFF 2022 planned to be held in January this year?
Yes. Thanks to the arrival of the third wave of Covid, we had no other alternative but to postpone the festival from January end to May end this year.
As the Director General, Films Division this year, what do you have to say about the organisation?
I am proud that I have been entrusted the task of functioning also as the Director General, Films Division. Established just a year after our country attained its Independence in 1948, Films Division has pioneered the documentary movement in India. It has documented the transformation of India as an independent nation through a series of newsreels and Indian News Review, which today form part of rich archival footage.
Can you elucidate?
Over the years, the Films Division has produced over 9,000 titles, out of which nearly 2,000 titles hold lasting value. Besides undertaking documentary production in house, Films Division also supports the Independent Documentary makers through its Outside Production plan scheme. Recently, it has also joined hands with Civil Society Organizations (NGOs) engaged in documentary and short film production by routing film production endowments.
In what way is the MIFF this year going to be different from the earlier years?
In the first place, for the first time in the history of the festival, we have decided to also conduct the festival in hybrid mode so that people all over the world can enjoy watching the films which are being showcased here in India during the on-going MIFF 2022 . Also there are going to be quite a few interesting Master Classes as well as special packages of films this year.
Is there any other interesting development that you have introduced this year?
Till date, only the media was allowed to attend the festival free but from this year onwards we will see to it that students also will be able to see the festival without paying the delegate fee, because the students are going to be the filmmakers of tomorrow and we want to nurture them right from the time when they are young. We are very keen that the kids should come and enjoy watching the film festival without paying any delegate fee. This time we are all set to showcase several children’s films from Japan.
Often there is a lot of confusion with people not knowing which film is going to be screened at which venue. What have you done to alleviate this confusion?
This time, I have decided to install a giant 4 D screen at the entrance gate of the complex itself in order to flood the people with ample information about which film is going to be showcased at which theatre and will also show the synopsis of each film
The oldest and largest festival for non-feature films in South Asia, MIFF, organized by Films Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and supported by Government of Maharashtra, attracts film makers from all over the world. Apart from competition and non-competition sections, interactive sessions like workshops, master classes, open forum and B2B sessions are major highlights of the festival.
How happy are you with the kind of response you have received for the MIFF 2022?
The response to the 16th edition of biennial MIFF held in 2020 was overwhelming, signifying a vibrant documentary culture in India and the world. This year too, MIFF 2022 has received a lot of overwhelming response which signifies the fact that there is a lot of awareness as far as the short films and documentary films are concerned.
Earlier there used to be this complaint that films which are being showcased during the MIFF were not able to get buyers. What have you decided to alleviate this grievance of the filmmakers?
Keeping precisely this complaint voiced in the past by the producers of the short as well as documentary film makers and also the animation filmmakers, we decided to tie up with major OTT players like Netflix as well as Amazon Prime Video who have agreed to participate in the festival this year and buy films selected for the festival.
Do you think that documentary films have lost their sheen and are pale in front of feature films?
On the contrary, I’d say that documentary films are more prominent of late because there is more awareness amongst the audiences these days. In fact, I would say that they are the real mirror that sets out to mirror the society and I’d go to the extent of saying that making documentaries is on the rise though Covid has played the spoil sport in between.
Can you please tell me what the incentives of the government of India are to promote the making of not only short and documentary films but also animation as well as feature films in our country?
At the recent Cannes Film Festival, the Information & Broadcasting Minister had announced that 30 percent of the investment in a film shot in India will be reimbursed subject to a maximum of 2 crores of rupees. There are quite a few very lucrative incentives and we have also kept the process very simple after getting the approval from the government from April this year.
Do you think that the documentaries are being given a step motherly treatment? Do you plan to integrate the glamor quotient into documentaries?
Glamour has never been a part of the documentary movement or for that matter MIFF ever. Since documentaries have always addressed the burning issues in society, we can ever let ourselves be associated with glamour as far as making documentaries and short films are concerned.
Where do you see MIFF in the next few years?
The I & B Ministry has reposed their faith in me and I have to do proper justice and deliver my best. My personal business is to have ease of business with transparency in the system with all the producers. It is with a certain purpose that the various units have been merged. It is our endeavour to curb red tape of the interest of promotion of Cinema as such.
Finally, when are you making MIFF an annual festival because for quite some time, there has been a suggestion to make it an annual festival? Isn’t it?
Yes. We are considering all the suggestions that were made to make MIFF a regular annual film festival as early as possible.