Hong Kong Filmart: Indian Content Firms Bemoan Lack of Export Support

Martin Haake

“There's a lot of interest in Indian films now in Asia, but we get no help in promoting them overseas," says one market attendee.

The popularity of Indian films and TV programs is on the up internationally, especially in Asia, but industry players bemoan the lack of support in exporting content.

“The government sees us as a third-grade industry, they're just interested in collecting the entertainment tax, which is very heavy,” said Hirachand Dand, CEO of Madhu Entertainment & Media

The entertainment tax on movie tickets in India varies from state to state, but can be as high as 30 percent.

“There's not even an export council. When we speak to exhibitors at Filmart from other Asian countries, they're getting everything paid to come here,” said Dand, who also acts as vp of the so-called Indian Council of Impex for Films and TV Programmers. The council represents nearly 100 companies, five of which are at Filmart in a pavilion under its banner, including Narendra Hirawat & Co.

“There's a lot of interest in Indian films now in Asia, but we get no help in promoting them overseas,” said Narendra Hirawat, head of the sales company that bears his name. “I'm talking to buyers from Thailand, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Canada about packages of films for home entertainment, cable and IPTV.”

EVS was the first company to distribute Indian content in Thailand, according to vp Phattanadol Suranunkhingphet, who was at Filmart looking for animation series from India. “There are some common religious beliefs in India and Thailand, so there is an audience for animation along those themes,” said Phattanadol.

Indian filmmakers are taking advantage of subsidies offered by other countries, but there is no support at home and little to lure overseas productions there.

By way of example, 3G, an Eros International and Next Gen Films production, was shot in Fiji, garnering a 45 percent rebate on its approximately $1 million production costs, according to Kumar Ahuja of Eros.

Indian films can spend two to three times their production budgets on P&A for their huge domestic market, leaving little for overseas promotion.

“There's no powerful lobby for the industry in India, that's one reason there's little help,” said Dand. “But if we make money, the government wants to come and get the taxes.”