In this interview, Ravinder Bhakar talks about his grand vision for transforming NFDC; Satyajit Ray Cinema Fest hosted on the occasion of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav; the growing importance of film festivals, and the upcoming NFDC projects.
These are exciting times for the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), which finds itself at the cusp of a major transformation with Ravinder Bhakar at the helm. The 1999 batch officer of Indian Railway Stores Service (IRSS), who is the CEO of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), has been given the additional charge of the NFDC as its Managing Director.
In his distinguished career as an Indian Engineering Services officer, Bhakar has rich experience of holding many important posts in Indian Railways. He is also the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the National award from the Ministry of Railways for outstanding service and General Manager Award both in Western Railways (WR) and Central Railways (CR) for exemplary service. He has also played a key role in various modernization drives in WR and CR and was closely associated in developing modern PR techniques, implementation of electronic procurement, formulation of various multimodal logistics plans and transport management.
In this interview, Bhakar talks about his grand vision for transforming NFDC, Satyajit Ray’s Cinema Fest hosted on the occasion of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav as part of the legendary filmmaker’s birth centenary, growing importance of film festivals, and the upcoming NFDC projects including the India – Bangladesh co-production directed by Shyam Benegal titled ‘Mujib – The Making of a Nation’.
Q. Tell us about Satyajit Ray’s Cinema Fest. Could you please share some numbers that can give some idea about its reach / footfall?
A. On the occasion of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it’s a great honour for us to celebrate the birth centenary and roll out a special gallery at National Museum of Indian Cinema as a tribute to the legendary filmmaker. People have seen Ray’s films in some form or the other yet this time we invited Ray lovers for our handpicked package on the big screens in selected theatres for free.
There was an overwhelming response to the film festival. The audiences had a great time and enjoyed the festival. More than 5,000 people attended the screenings and activities for 15 chosen Satyajit Ray’s films Fest across all six venues – Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune, and Bengaluru.
Q. On the occasion of commemoration of Satyajit Ray’s birth centenary, how do you look at the filmmaker’s cinematic legacy?
A. Ray’s films are renowned globally. It’s always a learning experience watching his films. We are glad to be part of the grand birth centenary celebrations by Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. It is indeed a pleasure to organize the film festival at National Museum of Indian Cinema along with the newly done Ray’s gallery in the state-of-art museum.
Q. As part of the festival, Satyajit Ray’s semi-permanent gallery was also inaugurated. Tell us about the vision behind it.
A. On the birth centenary of Ray, we wanted to make it special and bring his works to the common people. The gallery was planned to be made earlier but due to pandemic things got delayed. Nevertheless, we have it inaugurated and each individual, be it a cinephile or not, should visit the Museum and seek inspiration from his works. He was a visionary person who brought laurels to the nation. National Council of Science Museums (NCSM) Kolkata has yet again done a good job.
Q. How do you look at the growing importance of film festivals, especially given the impact of the pandemic?
A. With pandemic and changing technology, film festivals globally have been impacted. Their importance to the films showcased has become more relevant. Most of the festivals are now organized both online and in-person. This has made the films reach wide and far. Online festivals have helped most of the filmmakers to connect to one another without being physical present at the festivals and that too faster.
Q. Satyajit Ray’s Cinema Fest opened with ‘Aparajito,’ directed by Anik Datta. What is the film all about and why the title ‘Aparajito’?
A. ‘Aparajito’ is a tribute to the maestro Ray on his birth centenary. The film celebrates the ‘Undefeated’ (Aparajito) spirit of Ray when he was making his debut film. The character in the film is also named as Aparajito Ray and hence the title. The film is inspired by the making of Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’. In this film, a character called Aparajito Ray, aka Apu, makes a film called ‘Pather Podaboli.’
Q. As the Managing Director NFDC, what are your main priorities / focus areas for ushering in a new era of cinema in India?
A. We are a film development organization mandated to promote cinemas of India. Consequent upon the merger, NFDC shall emerge as a fully integrated film development corporation that shall be empowered to enable the growth of the Indian film industry, through development, production, distribution and marketing of all forms of films in various Indian languages.
Our priority is to leverage emerging technologies, especially the digital medium, including our own OTT platform www.cinemasofindia.com to help in consolidating our positioning internationally as a producer of culturally backed Indian films. We would also prioritize co-production and gap funding support to filmmakers and encourage global players to shoot in India. The focus is on improving the conduct of the National and International Film festivals organized by the corporation as they bring together the story tellers and people associated with film making from various parts of the world under one roof and promote and appreciate the talent and various other aspects of filmmaking. We will also be empowering Skill Development, Commissioned Production, Media planning and Social-media Departments to consolidate our position with various Central and State Government Departments. The activities of NFAI, Pune and its restoration programme will be handled with at most care and attention in carrying the preservation of filmic content. The NFAI film circle will be made as a pan-Indian Film Circle program that will target schools and colleges across India. The activity will be designed to capitalize on students’ natural interest in films and use the medium as a tool for dissemination of social & aspirational values, nation building, and as a medium of art. Collaboration and regular interaction with film industry to widen the collection base of the National Museum of Indian Cinema (NMIC) besides giving it more acceptability among the fraternity is also an important measure in the priority.
Q. What can we expect next from NFDC?
A. NFDC has recently completed production of four feature films during pandemic times and two films are ready (‘Chhaad’ – Bengali and ‘Korangi Nunchi’ – Telugu) and other two are under post production (‘Josephki Macha’ – Manipuri and ‘Mujib’ – Bengali). Our major project is ‘Mujib – The Making of a Nation,’ which is an India – Bangladesh co-production. We are planning to promote these at major Festivals. Also, we are open for new productions amd call for entries are open for animation series as part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. NFDC India will see a transformation and will come out with complete new 360 degree vision in the M&E sector.