For a movie-lover looking to explore parallel cinema beyond Kumbalangi Nights and Sairat, there are few places to go, few platforms to turn to. A new one is hoping to bridge that gap. Cinemapreneur, started by Rupinder Kaur, 35, a former corporate executive, and Gaurav Raturi, 35, a film curator, offers indie films, documentaries and short films on demand, at prices that range from Rs 49 to Rs 140. Filmmakers get 50%.
The platform went live on August 1 and currently features 40 films, with a new one added to the list every Friday. Films will typically stay on the platform for periods ranging from a month to a year.
Among the 40 titles currently available is Teenaa Kaur’s National Award-winning documentary 1984: When The Sun Didn’t Rise (2017) and Puta Tirugisi Nodi (2016), a Kannada film by Suneel Raghavendra, about a cricketer-turned-school teacher. These and the other films have been picked as excellent examples of cinema that also deal in accessible themes.
“We like to think of them as middle-of-the-pyramid films. If YouTube content is at the bottom, to be shared with the widest audience for free, and the few premium filmmakers reside on the top of the pyramid, then Cinemapreneur taps the middle of this pyramid, for creators who are making films of quality but don’t have an accessible platform on which to showcase them,” Raturi says. “The idea came to us because, going to film bazaars and interacting with young filmmakers at festivals, one realises what a lot of amazing, arthouse and festivals films there are out there, that cannot be found anywhere by an audience.”
The idea is to use technology and the power of streaming, which has now become a habit at least in the cities, particularly during the pandemic, to try and democratise the reach of quality independent content.
It’s particularly important to do this, Kaur adds, because the indie films tend to be rooted in real-life stories and events. “Even the mainstream streaming platforms tend to focus on content with relatively mass appeal,” Raturi points out. Hence, Kumbalangi Nights and Killa, which either feature known actors or were critically acclaimed or both. There are of course non-mainstream films that don’t fit those criteria, on platforms such as Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar and Amazon Prime, but they tend to be in a tiny minority.
“For our platform, we pick films that, first, are not available on a free platform. Our team of four curators goes through every movie submitted to us too. Films which have won at festivals or been recognised by critics are shortlisted by us too,” Kaur says.
The opportunity presented by life in the pandemic — with everyone largely indoors and eager for fresh content — prompted the duo to launch when they did. This is also a rare period without theatres, Raturi says.
The biggest challenge, he adds, is getting word out without a real marketing budget. The other hurdle is mindset — people are more willing to gamble a relatively larger sum on a blockbuster with little promise than they are to spend a smaller sum on a lesser-known artist’s work—even if it promises to be good. “This mindset needs to change,” Raturi adds. “We’ve all seen how art kept us going in the lockdown, and still keeps us going in the pandemic. We must learn to value it.”
Icarus (2020; Hindi), directed by Abhijeet More. An undercover agent must go on a final mission before he can retire. This is currently the most-viewed film on the platform.
Maali (The Gardener; 2020; Hindi), directed by Ashwini Malik. Also among the top-viewed, it’s the story of a backward-caste gardener who helps a woman question her position in her marriage.
Kondan (2020; Marathi), a feature by Sachin Ashok Yadav, has premiered on Cinemapreneur. As a widowed mother cultivates her land and cares for her children, she rediscovers herself.
The Holy Fish (2017; Hindi), directed by Sandeep Mishra and Vimal Chandra Pandey. A dying man recovers and goes on a journey to seek salvation, but first he must find a mythical fish.
Revelations (2016; Tamil), a film by Vijay Jayapal that premiered at the Busan festival. A young married Tamilian woman in Kolkata develops a complex relationship with a middle-aged neighbour, and secrets start to unravel.
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