Mukta Arts, Shemaroo seminar on initiatives to curb piracy

MUMBAI: Concentrate on non-theatrical releases! Producers, exhibitors need to arrive at a consensus! The film industry needs to embrace new technology! These were some of the suggestions thrown up at last evenings seminar in Mumbai on Initiatives to Curb Piracy. The seminar was organised by Mukta Arts and Shemaroo Video.

Speaking from the media, film analyst Komal Nahata said: "In the fight between members of one large family (producers and exhibitors) it is the pirates who are having the last laugh. It is important that a formula is arrived at regarding time of sale of a film to DVD, home video. Exhibitors cannot block the release of DVDs."

"Pirated copies anyway surface and so exhibitors will hurt themselves. Producers and distributors need to realise that DVD's, VCD's are here to stay. We can take a leaf from our Hollywood counterparts. There just 25 per cent of a films revenue comes from the theatre," Nahata added.

Nahata also stressed that the time frame for the release of a film should be fixed. Different grades depending on whether a film is a hit of a miss will only create further confusion. Director Subhash Ghai said that this should depend on how the film performs in the first four to six weeks.

SET India CEO Kunal Dasgupta took a radical line and suggested the need for the film fraternity to concentrate on non-theatrical releases. "I believe in combating the problem through positive means. All films do not have to be released in the cinemas.

If selling the film on DVD, satellite is enough for the producer to make a profit then that route must be taken. Using television, filmmakers can promote the film by saying that it is only available on DVD," Dasgupta said.

"The pirates cannot compete in such a scenario as copying films illegally becomes all the more difficult and the incentive is gone as viewers can watch top notch quality prints from their homes. One can use recognised artistes for these films. For this to happen a distinction has to first be made between a film made for the theatre and one which is not," Dasgupta added.

For theatrical releases Dasgupta said that the current open window of five months for open television is good enough. He noted that when CAS (conditional access system) is put in place the film producer could use the pay-per-view route. Abroad, this happens three weeks after the film hits the cinemas.

Veteran actor Amrish Puri however pointed out that films which have attractive visuals and long shots can only be appreciated in the cinema. He also lamented the declining quality of Bollywood cinema. With great difficulty one can at the most say that ten out of 100 films are worth watching, he said.

Another major problem is that cable operators illegally screen films. Actor Akshay Khanna said that cable operators in Mumbai do not fear the consequences of their actions. In the south there is virtually no piracy on the telly. This could be due to the fact that there is a close link between politicians and filmmakers.

Akshay also claimed that actors fan clubs can create pressure. Unfortunately Maharashtra and other states follow a live and let live policy, which is unfair, Khanna said. Cutting feed to a cable operator is one option. The MSO ought to be questioned as to where the franchisee is receiving the signal from.

Exhibitor Manmohan Shetty pointed out that while there are 4000 cinemas in the country that play Hindi films there are just a few hundred copies of a film that are released. This holds true for a Devdas as . Everyone wants to see first day first show and so digital projection technology can be used to alleviate the problem.

At the seminar, the organisers also announced a distribution alliance between Mukta Arts and Shemaroo as a first step combatting the piracy menace. Ten classics from the Mukta Arts library including Taal, Saudagar are available in VCD and DVD format in India and Nepal. The DVD's cost Rs 550 while the VCDs cost Rs 149 and Rs 199.

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