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Amazon’s I&B wants to promote Indian content (IANS Column: B-Town)


India has used various bodies set up by the government over a period of time to promote Indian films and culture in various ways – films through the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) and culture through programs made by or for the Film Division (FD).

In most cases, the content produced or promoted by these bodies remains within India. It was all light-hearted, and not well thought out. Most of it ended up as promotional content for the ruling regime. These organizations were not created to monetize their content.

Besides the FD and NFDC, the systems also promoted, and continue to do so now, for the International Film Festival of India (IFFI). The idea is to introduce foreign delegates to Indian films and Indian audiences to films from around the world.

But now the government thinks it can monetize Indian content while also promoting Indian talent. To that end, I&B Minister Anurag Singh Thakur has announced a partnership with Amazon Prime and the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

The I&B department and Amazon with IMDb have reached an understanding across seven points and the wording of the ad sounds very institutional – it says a lot but means nothing.

Take for example the first point: Amazon and I & B Ministry will collaborate to promote creative talent, initiate capacity building measures and showcase Made in India creative content globally.

It didn’t mean anything to me and I’m not an MBA! What made sense to me was the part about promoting creative Made in India content. Isn’t the content we make creative? What is creative content? As for “enhancement of talent”, he is promoting himself. What are the “capacity building” measures? Kind of aphrodisiac?

Then, as you say, enable Indian talent discovery through IMDb! If one is familiar with IMDb, it is known to be a list portal. It rates movies and is not known for hunting, identifying or scouting talent.

The next proposal is: Prime Video and miniTV will create internship and scholarship opportunities for FTII and SRFTII students and sponsor master classes for students as well as “75 Creative Minds of Tomorrow”.

FTII stands for Film and Television Institute of India and SRFTII, similarly, is an acronym for Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute. Internships and scholarships are good, but isn’t the ministry so confident in its own FTII and SRFTII that it needs more endorsements by IMDb? This is the Raj mentality. Seeking approvals from the Jura and distrusting our own institutions.

The rest of the proposals that didn’t amount to much were approved. One says: Iconic content from NFDC, Doordarshan and IFFI will be shown on Prime Video and miniTV to commemorate Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. Almost all of the content that the ministry calls creative is available on various internet portals like YouTube, and what’s more, the NFDC is not known for properly preserving the film negatives in its possession.

Two filmmakers who made NFDC-funded films asked the company to sell their film negatives and film rights to them, but were refused.

One wouldn’t expect much to get out of this deal between Ministry of I&B, Amazon, and IMDb.

Since the world accepts that yoga can be beneficial and many outside India follow the Bhagavad Gita, it would be best for the I&B ministry to select specific topics to promote through OTT platforms. Except for the monuments in the north, and to some extent in Rajasthan, the monuments in the rest of India have not been exposed to the Western world.

As for Indian classical music, many artists have gained fame and a large following abroad on their own. This is also one faculty to focus on for promotion not only in the West, but also in India, where interest in classical music seems to be waning.

It would be appropriate to promote India in terms of subject matter: temples, music, monuments, costumes, etc.

So what if he is 58 years old!

Salman Khan has come out in favor of clean content on OTT platforms and the rest of the media. Others on Twitter pounced on him as though Salman Khan has always indulged in such things and is now trying to be Mr. Clean! Salman tweeted:

“I just think there should be a censor on OTT and this vulgar nudity, gali galoch needs to stop ASAP. 15-16 year olds are watching such content on their phones.”

The media accused Salman of the things he did in his films, but those on Twitter responded with abuse and insults. Social media like Twitter is the abode of cowards who dare to call names to others behind the safety of their hands.

Don’t be surprised if you find them snapping at the premiere of Salman Khan’s upcoming movie!

Twitter is the place to vent frustration and handles are not expected to offer any constructive criticism. But the media?

Some attributed the motives to Salman’s attempts to build a good image. They mentioned how he started appearing topless in his films, thus forcing Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan to also flaunt their muscles! If one follows Indian mythology, all the gods and other characters are made naked.

Even a media commentator said that “Bollywood mafia (?)” is jealous of OTT, which is why Salman made such a comment. What do you think OTT feeds if not movies?

A watchable OTT series comes from time to time. Movies ensure their survival, at least in India. None of the media people who chose Salman missed mentioning his age: 58. I don’t know what’s wrong with him being 58 and yet he’s so fit and commands a large number of followers too!

It is not correct to cite examples of Salman restraining his body, kissing him on screen, or using obscene gestures or bad language. Of course, he has been known to make gestures that are unacceptable in real life, even to female journalists. As for the use of double meaning dialogues, the practice has been a part of Hindi films since time immemorial.

If one digs deeper, the lyrics of almost every second song have double meanings. Take for example a song from “Murder”, “Bheege honth tere” or “Balam pichkari…” from “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani”. Just search online and you will find a long list of double meaning songs.

Trailer slot works: PVR

In my column last week (April 9, 2023), I noted and expressed some reservations about PVR-INOX offering a 30-minute slot showing trailers for upcoming movies.

Mr. Gautam Dutta, Co-CEO, PVR confirmed that the idea has been accepted by the viewers and the series registered 36,000 participants in the early days.

For my part, I suggested that as the trailers appear first on YouTube, for 30 minutes, the cinema management should work with the producers to get these trailers a week before they appear online.

Also add more footage, like some scenes and maybe a song number.

Mr Dutta said this was only the beginning and they were working on ways to make the scheme more attractive.


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