Multi level Marketers or Multifaceted talent who’s driving the Bengali Film Industry? – Chawm Ganguly

chawm g (14)aBengali cinema is the toast of the season. Talented raconteurs have been hugely successful in attracting back the discerning audiences. Critical acclaim has been crowned with commercial successes. While budgets have soared to unthinkable levels on the one hand, low budget films too have done brisk businesses in the box office, ensuring that the industry end the year on a high note.

However, this chirpy trend may be in for a rude shock – a shock coming as early as in 2013 itself. Industry watchers are weary of looking at Bengali Cinema as a standalone entity and would rather club it with the Bengali television industry – Tollywood at its entirety. Do it and the tinsel peels with the seamy underbelly getting exposed: a sordid tale where the figures just don’t add up.

“Today the lion’s share of the work that is being done is financed by the Chit Funds and the Multi Level Marketing companies, with a handful of traditional producers like us holding on at the face of the onslaught” said a highly acclaimed producer who did not want to be named. “Neither do these companies understand cinema, film making or television, nor are they here for the love of celluloid” he continued warming up to the topic. “They wander in attracted by the glitz and the glamour, spend obscene amounts of money for which they are not accountable and are constantly fueled by the hope of making the next block buster that will make the cash boxes jingle forever.”

But seldom do such scenarios play out in real life. “Take the case of any one of the many chit fund financed television channels. Neither do they make sense aesthetically, nor have they any chance of breaking-even, leave alone earning a decent return on investment” he said. Alarmed I ask, “but, why do they continue to throw good money after bad? Surely it makes prudent sense to cut your losses and move on?”

“There are three reasons – for one, they do not have alternative avenues to deploy their surplus funds, secondly, the ego of these promoters stop them from pulling out publicly and finally because each is surrounded by a thousand minions who for their own vested interests egg the promoters on.” The same, needless to say, holds good for cinemas with a plethora of releases dished out that have sank without a trace.

“I am alarmed to put things mildly” said another industry stalwart. “With the Central Government tightening the screws, many of these fly by night operators are in for a tough time. With their sources drying up, the owners will vamoose, leaving the industry holding the can of worms.”

Many state the example of a channel, replete with a CEO with a 7 figure pay packet and luxury cars that shut shop unceremoniously once the fund flows dried up. “I have nothing against businesses shutting up – it is a natural Darwinian process – what pains me is the way they jack up salary levels and other costs to abnormal levels only to pull out leaving genuine people high and dry” said one technician who has burnt his hands.

Industry insiders, economists, bankers and politicians are more or less unanimous that the blow will come in 2013 itself. For one, the authorities cannot continue to look the other way even as the scattered savings of the society are squandered by unscrupulous promoters. Besides, what ever be the political compulsions it will not be expedient for the Government to allow such businesses to mushroom the way they are growing now. Finally, with the panchayet elections just around the corner, regulating chit funds that are playing havoc with the economies at the grassroots will increasingly become a major issue. Leading to a clampdown with disastrous consequences for the local film industry.

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hope that we shall be able to overcome the blow. It is not about if it comes anymore, it is when it comes.” Bengali Film Industry in twenty thirteen – the portends are ominous. Watch this space.