Manish Mundra, who made his directorial debut recently with a hard-hitting “Siya” says that a sensitive film made on a small budget with new actors neither gets an audience nor gets promoted properly.
“We talk about artistic films made abroad with gusto, but when the same type of film is made in our country, we do not reach the theatres to see it. Then we complain that good films are not made in Hindi cinema,” he says.
Film director and actor Prakash Jha, whose sweet, little film "Matto Ki Saikil" is in news these days, concurs. In several interviews in the run-up to his movie, he revealed that no one showed interest when he wanted to sell his film on the OTT platform. “Everyone said that no one wants to watch a film without a star cast,” he says.
It is only after his bitter experience with the OTT platforms that he decided to release “Matto Ki Saikil” in theatres. Even though it was released on a limited number of screens in the theatre, it received good reviews.
It is obvious that the makers of small films, however good, keep facing the challenges. Journalist Ajay Brahmatmaj says that those making small-budget films have to first come out of inferiority complex and cynicism. “No one wants to hear their complaints. Nobody cares about their anger,” he says.
Therefore, he says, one has to fight it out instead of voicing grievances. “Today, big production houses and OTT platforms are supporting good content. That's why I think low-budget films should target the OTT platform only. It will give them money as well as the audience. That will also help them make more movies of their choice in the future,” he adds.
A successful film director Madhur Bhandarkar, for one, made a meaningful film with actress Tamannaah Bhatia such as "Babli Bouncer", backed by Star Studios and released on Disney Hotstar. “There is a need to learn from this example. The makers will have to adjust to the changes rather than just airing the grievances,” he says
Actor Yashpal Sharma says “We cannot fight a war with a big production house, film distributor, or a multiplex chain. Our strength is our content. If the content has power, release it only on 200 to 300 screens. If the audience is impressed by the film, the audience themselves will spread positive word about the film and help it get 300 to 1000 screens,” he says. Several movies like "Badhaai Ho", "Bareilly Ki Barfi", and "Article 15" in recent years are examples of that.
Brahmatmaj, however, underlines the important role that the government can play to boost small cinema. He says, “In Maharashtra, for example, meaningful Marathi films are getting the support of the government. There are fixed shows and timings of Marathi films in theatres. That is why Marathi films are flourishing. Similar cooperation of the government is necessary for meaningful Hindi cinema as well. Producers of small films cannot afford to fight against big corporate houses,” he says.
He says, if the demand for protection of meaningful cinema is raised in a systematic manner by the film lovers and producers before the government, it is bound to yield positive results. He says if the government feels that by supporting such films, the culture, language, and art of the state could be promoted, it may take favourable decisions.
That obviously makes it imperative for the makers of small films to come up with innovative ways to woo the audience back. Recently, due to slashed ticket prices, a small-budget film "Chup" got a good response from the audience recently. “Such a move will definitely benefit small films and ensure footfalls in theatres,” he says.
Manish Mundra says that everyone has to come together and the audience has to be aware. "Only then will the new filmmakers be able to muster the strength to tell their stories. If not today, then tomorrow, that time has to come," he says.