Anurag Singh Thakur*
The silent shores of the french riviera are all set to host the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. As the focus country at the Opening Night of ‘Marche Du Films’ this year, India intends to give the global audience a flavour of the country’s cinematic excellence, technological prowess, rich culture and illustrious heritage of storytelling. India and France are marking the 75th year of their diplomatic relations; Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Paris and bilateral with President Emmanuel Macron takes even more significance in this context. It is in this significant diplomatic backdrop that India has been chosen as the first ‘Country of Honour’ at Marche’ Du Film at the Cannes Film Festival.
‘Festival de Cannes’ has played a significant role in strengthening Indo-French relations since its inception. The stepping stone was laid by bestowing the Palme d’Or to the prolific Indian filmmaker Chetan Anand’s film Neecha Nagar in 1946 and a decade later in 1956, Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali won the Palm d’Or. In the year 2013, Amitabh Bachchan was invited to open the festival and over the years numerous members of Indian cinema have served on the Cannes Jury.
India’s presence at Cannes this year holds significance in many ways. It will be for the first time that our red carpet line up captures the diversity of our cinematic excellence not only in terms of representation of actors and film makers from various languages and regions, but also OTT platforms, with a strong presence of music composers and a folk artist who have enthralled audiences both young and old. Indian music maestros will be performing at the India Pavilion to showcase the vibrance and variety of Indian cinema at the festival. Indian startups from the media and entertainment sector will also be present to showcase their technological prowess and pitch to the best from the world of AVGC along with a strong delegation of animation professionals from the sector. The world premier of Rocketry is anxiously awaited along with numerous other films in various regional languages which will be screened for the first time at Cannes. And in another first, the remastered classic of Satyajit Ray’s - Pratidwandi will be screened at the Cannes Classic section marking his centenary year.
The celebration of India at Cannes and the recognition of our cinematic excellence the world over is set to manifest the country into the ‘content hub of the world’. Today the flavour, choice and narrative has shifted from eden in the west and settled in the east. India’s journey has been beautifully captured and narrated through cinema and as we mark ‘Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ we must recall the crucial role it has played and portrayed in our fight for independence, be it through turbulent times and in our triumphs.
Today the media and entertainment sector is a significant contributor to the Indian ‘creative’ economy and also for projecting India’s soft power abroad. The Modi government has envisioned and spearheaded major initiatives over the last 8 years to boost co-productions, film shoots and film facilitations in India. States such as Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh amongst others have taken the lead through film facilitation policies and providing co-production opportunities. In 2018, we had officially designated audiovisual services as one of 12 'champion service sectors’ and recently set up an AVGC task force comprising of industry leaders to prepare a policy roadmap for India to take a quantum leap in this sector and position us as the preferred ‘post production hub of the world’. A few weeks ago, the world’s largest digitisation and restoration process of 5900 short films, documentaries, and features was initiated in line with our vision to preserve, protect and promote our cinematic heritage for future generations.
We are seeing that within India and across the world, the nature of the media business and content creation, consumption and distribution has changed. The advent of AI, virtual reality, immersive technology such as the metaverse, presents immense possibilities to India’s IT skilled workforce. According to reports, the OTT market in India is predicted to grow at 21% annually to nearly Rs 12,000 crores by 2023. Today, Indian platforms outnumber foreign ones and there is a gold rush amongst broadcasters as well as telcos to set up their own.
India is bustling and hustling in its towns and villages. Our tales and talent from the hinterland are capturing the imagination of film makers and movie lovers, both in mainstream cinema as well as OTT platforms - and winning awards on the way! With this in mind we are also focusing more on developing regional film festivals across the country, of which Ladakh, Kashi and J&K have been organised. Looking ahead, one can boldly say, what India creates today is being consumed by the world tomorrow. We are perfectly poised to take another leap as nearly 300 million citizens are set to connect online as India marches ahead in cementing its space in the commerce of the M&E sector. Government policies are aimed at boosting India’s media and entertainment ecosystem, which is a sunrise sector expected to generate Rs 4 Trillion annually by 2025.
The opportunities India offers to the world to connect, communicate, create and in terms of choice as well as consumption are unlike anywhere in the world. And that is why the land of story tellers is on the spotlight of the cinematic world today!—The Hawk
*Union Minister for I&B, Youth Affairs and Sports