Mumbai Film Mart Offers Learning Lessons

Organized under the aegis of the Mumbai Film Festival, the Mumbai Film Mart is evolving into a much needed B2B platform for the industry.


MUMBAI - The ongoing week-long Mumbai Film Festival (which concludes Thursday) has been attracting its fair share of cineastes given the festival's top notch programming which includes the buzzworthy Martin Scorsese documentary George Harrison: Living In The Material World considering the late ex-Beatles' India connections. But there is also a growing buzz around the Mumbai Film Mart, launched as a concept at last year's festival. "

We ended up receiving 2,000 requests from independent film-makers and buying agents which yielded 400 meetings," said MFF manager Rashmi Lamba.

With this year's focus on exploring non-traditional markets for Indian films in Europe, Latin America, Korea and Japan, the three day MFF (which concluded Monday) saw foreign participants such as IM Global (USA), Rapid Eye (Germany), Novo Films (France), Metropolitan (France), Top Films (CIS), Showbox (Korea), Nikkatsu (Japan), Happinet (Japan), Pioniwa (Japan), 1 Production (Taiwan), Apex Entertainment (Korea), Zeus Film (Taiwan), CJ Entertainment (Korea) and Huayi Brothers (China).

One of India's most successful films, 2009 comedy caper 3 Idiots recently opened in Korea where it collected $7.5 million. "The acceptance of 3 Idiots at the Korean box office shows that audiences are open to Bollywood films and its worth pursuing this genre for the future," said the film's Korean distributor Apex Entertainment director B J Park. Apex will next release Guzaarish in November starring top star Hrithik Roshan.

Another well-documented example of a brewing non-traditional market is Germany where Cologne-based Rapid Eye Movies can be credited for expanding Bollywood's presence over the years releasing films by superstar Shah Rukh Khan, among others. "We are hoping that with Khan's December release (action sequel) Don 2, we can take things to the next level as the film was shot in Germany," said Rapid Eye Movies MD Stephan Holl. But beyond blockbusters, Rapid Eye has also experimented with Indian arthouse fare such as Mumbai Diaries and Peepli Live.

Japan has only seen one breakout hit with South Indian musical film Muthu - The Dancing Maharaja, starring superstar Rajnikant which became a rage when released in 1998 collecting an estimated $1.6 million. "Since then, there has actually been a long gap in marketing Indian films in Japan but we now hope to explore this segment and which is why its good to be at the mart to learn about the industry here," said Nikkatsu Corporation director/GM, Licensing and Acquistions, Aki Sugihara. A major player, the 100-year-old Nikkatsu has a history of distributing international fare in Japan ranging from Wim Wenders' Buena Vista Social Club to Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, among others.

While the jury is still out on whether an Indian film can truly travel globally, attempts to mix cultures in story-telling have been made in a bid to wow non-traditional audiences. Though the much anticipated 2010 romance drama Kites performed below expectations, the film's Mexican lead actress Barbara Mori was seen as a driver to introduce Kites in Latin America. Distributed by a major player like IM Global, Kites received a wide release in 70 markets worldwide, "more than double the typical 30 market figure for most Bollywood films," according to IM Global senior vp, International Sales, David Jourdan. Among foreign players, IM Global has a strong India connection in that leading Indian conglomerate Reliance Entertainment - a major sponsor of the Mumbai Film Fest - has a majority stake in the L.A.-based company.

While no immediate deals were announced after all the "speed dating" meetings at MFM, an example of a project resulting from last year's relatively modest mart could point to the future. London-based film promotions consultancy Special Treats director Colin Burrows met with Indian producer Ashwani Sharma who pitched the concept for Nobel Chor (Nobel Thief) partly inspired by a true incident where the Nobel Prize for renowned Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore went missing. "We kept in touch during shooting and now I am a Supervising Producer on the film (directed by Suman Ghosh) and shepherding it through the London Film Festival where it screened to great acclaim," Burrows told THR in an email interview from London.

Among the many independent film-makers this year seeking interest in their projects was Paris-based director of Indian origin Prashant Nairw hose debut Delhi In A Day screened in the festival's Film India Worldwide section. "Because I made connections at the mart, I now have something to follow up on which is a good beginning for any independent project," said Nair.

"While its early days to assess what benefits will come out of the mart and its also unfair to compare it with established overseas marts, the fact is that Mumbai as the film capital needed a B2B platform and this could fill that void," said leading Indian banner Balaji Films CEO Tanuj Garg.

"The best thing about the mart is that we get to meet most industry players in one location and this is a blessing given the crazy traffic in Mumbai," concluded Holl.