Time ripe for regional films to thrive, says ‘Mother of Asian Cinema’

Movies in lesser-known languages are increasingly finding space in film festivals and are reaching a greater audience now, said Aruna Vasudev, the Mother of Asian Cinema and founder of Netpac (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema).

Speaking at a discussion about the potential of regional films at the 10th Bengaluru International Film Festival, she said: “When I started a magazine on Asian cinema in the 80s, people asked who watches Asian movies? But interest surged. Similarly, interest is surging in regional cinema. I hope this brings the country closer.”

Aruna is also surprised to see youngsters flocking in larger numbers. “I thought young people will not be interested in film festivals with smartphones and new technology, but this is not the case,” she said.

Sri Lankan film critic Ashley Ratnavibhushana recalled the dominance of Hindi and Tamil movies among the sub-continental films in his country in the 80s.

“I started a festival of regional language cinema and brought veterans like Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Girish Kasaravalli. Now, people back home are familiar with regional films,” he said.

Uma da Cunha, film festival advisor and casting director for movies like Lagaan, spoke on the paucity of news about regional movies. “Its challenging even now to get news on regional language films from all corners, but at least now things are looking encouraging,” she added.

Mangaluru-based Abhaya Simha, whose Tulu movie Paddayi was screened in the festival, said getting visibility was a greater challenge, especially as movies in his language find it harder to compete with Kannada and Hindi industries that have bigger audiences and markets.

“Of course, we need money to make movies,” Simha said. “But we need more money to get these movies to the people.”

Answering a question on what the government is doing to promote regional cinema, Uma said people working to better the space and market their regional language movies must help themselves.

She noted that a Mumbai-based company, which she is part of, is working as a sales agent to get distributors for independent films in India and abroad.

The last-minute change in the topic of the discussion from Indian Regional Cinema-Online Promotion and Distribution irked members of the audience.

Disappointed viewers said they eagerly awaited the discussions since it was a new topic. But the organisers mollified them, saying the topic would be taken up at an interaction on Wednesday.

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