India's CinePlay Merges Theater With Cinema Aiming for Global Appeal

CinePlay - L-R - Subodh Maskara and Nandita Das - 2014 - H

Co-founded by actress and former Cannes jury member Nandita Das, the new venture aims to showcase theater content from India and overseas for a global audience.

CinePlay is a recently launched Mumbai-based first of a kind venture that blends the live theater experience with cinema. Co-founded by actress and former Cannes jury member Nandita Das and her husband Subodh Maskara, CinePlay has produced specially filmed versions of plays and screened them at cultural venues in Mumbai and Delhi. Future plans include marketing the concept via digital and other platforms to target a global audience.

The idea came into being when Maskara and Das co-starred in their 2012 English play Between The Lines which revolved around a lawyer couple who end up  arguing on opposite sides of a criminal trial, blurring their personal and professional lives. “We had about 40 house full shows and had requests for another 30 or so performances but due to various logistical reasons, we couldn't do more shows,” Maskara - who has a background as a serial entrepreneur and angel investor - told The Hollywood Reporter. “That got me thinking about doing a specially filmed version of the play so that it could be shared with a wider audience.”

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Maskara also says that while he had seen some international references of recorded versions of plays, “I never found them engaging since they were mostly recordings of a live performance for an audience. We wanted to do specially filmed versions with the right lighting and sound while still preserving the live experience.”

CinePlay has produced five plays so far and has fifteen productions in the pipeline. In addition to Between The Lines, other productions include iconic Hindi play Adhe Adhure (which has been staged since the sixties) and Dance Like A Man. CinePlay has hosted ticketed screenings at cultural venues – instead of cinemas - such as Mumbai's National Centre for the Performing Arts and Delhi's India Habitat Centre.

In terms of its global appeal, Maskara thinks “there is a huge market overseas starting with the diaspora. For instance, our content is being shown on 13 September in the US at the Washington DC South Asian Film Festival.”

CinePlay is also launching its own Video On Demand channel in about a month “as there is a lot of interest and potential growth in VoD and other digital platforms for our content.”

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Maskara – who was at Cannes this year trying to sell the CinePlay concept – says there was interest from various distributors "which gave us a sense of the market potential.”

Content from other countries is also a focus area “since we are aiming to establish a global platform instead of just being India-centric. The idea is to license the CinePlay genre worldwide. I am keen for other countries to share their theater stories in any language (with subtitled versions) for a global audience.”

Beyond just entertainment, CinePlay also sees itself serving the education and training market targeting educational institutes. Equally important is the archival value of its content. “Some of the works of India's most iconic theater talent has been lost to time,” says Maskara, “While the legacy of film talent is preserved due to the nature of the medium, that doesn't happen with theater which is where our archives can play an important role.”