#HTAtCannes | Anurag Singh Thakur: I do not agree with the term Bollywood | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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#HTAtCannes | Anurag Singh Thakur: I do not agree with the term Bollywood

May 27, 2022 11:01 AM IST

Talking to HT City at the 75th edition of Cannes Film Festival 2022, Union Minister Anurag Singh Thakur says India could easily be one-stop shop for global filmmakers.

He led from the front, and made the world take notice of India’s unprecedented upsurge at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Singh Thakur has a clear vision for the country’s positioning as the global content hub, and to that end, he wants to make it perfectly clear that a focus only on Bollywood will not do. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

Anurag Thakur, Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting at the India Pavilion at Cannes Film Festival 2022.
Anurag Thakur, Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting at the India Pavilion at Cannes Film Festival 2022.

It is huge that the first ever Country of Honour status by Marché du Cannes was given to India. What would you attribute this to?

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It’s a very special year, special because it is 75 years of Cannes, 75 years of Indo-French diplomatic relations, 75 years of India’s Independence. We are celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. I think nothing could be better for them and us to have had India as the Country of Honour. India is one of the largest producer of films, we are also on the cusp of being in the forefront of Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comics (AVGC) sector. I see India as the future content hub of the world. We have the advantage of more than 110 years of experience in filmmaking, we have effective, equipped manpower, we have great technology prowess. India could easily be the one stop shop for global filmmakers. Another unique advantage is that with our more than 6000 years old civilization, we are the land of storytelling. It’s a great opportunity for filmmakers to come and find stories in small villages to the big cities of today. There’s more to take away from the Indian culture than anywhere in the world.

The 30% incentive scheme announced for international co-productions in India was long awaited. Would the incentives be limited to monetary or would state governments work together to ensure ease of shooting in India?

I can see how much is getting done towards ensuring ease of doing business in India. This incentive scheme has been brought out after a lot of discussion with policy makers, I really hope the word goes out and filmmakers make use of it. As for states and their cooperation, you always face a certain challenge in a federal structure.There are many states who are pro-active, like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and there are others who have come forward with their own set of incentives and facilitation offices. I am sure they understand how films can help project their destinations to the world. A film is not just a showcase of your culture, it is not just for entertainment, it is also through films that you can promote yourself as a great tourist destination. It’s a win-win situation for any state to consider.

There are filmmakers who prefer to shoot in the UK because of high subsidies which are on offer, if, among other things, some key character in the film is shown to be British…

I personally feel government should not get into the domain of filmmakers [on] who they have to pick as an actor. Eventually it is the content which has the power to go from regional to national to International. I will never advise or advocate to have Indians forcefully in any film…Never. Let that be left to the producer and director of the film. If they find Indian locations or Indian actors worthy to be part of their storyline, they are most welcome. We have to attract global players by making India a more attractive package rather than a forceful package on anyone. It should be a great experience to come and shoot in any state. They should come back, again and again.

There are voices that say India is becoming over-optimistic about its projections for media and entertainment…

I won’t limit my reply only to entertainment, I’ll talk of our nation as a whole. Seven years back people used to say, ‘Well, India will struggle’ for just about anything. But look at the past seven years. In just a two-year span from 2014 to 2016, we opened 450 million bank accounts, 30 million houses for the poorest of the poor; 120 million toilets were build, every village or every household got electricity. 90 million portable water connections were given in the last two years, even during the pandemic time. Look at our payment systems; it used to evolve from coin to paper currency, then to plastic. India took a leap from paper currency directly to digital payments. Look at the Indian startup ecosystem. When I became the Minister of State Finance, PM Modi told me and Nirmala ji to look after the needs of startups because we need to give the platform, handhold and help them to do well. Now we proudly have a hundred unicorns, It’s not an easy thing. 47 startups became unicorns in the last two years, during the pandemic. That’s huge achievement. People from outside may not be looking at it, but within India we can feel us becoming a soft power. The same goes for media and entertainment.

An increasing demand to do away with censorship of entertainment content is being voiced at various forums. What’s your view?

Depends on whether the society is open for that. If you look at the OTT content, self regulation is already there. But then there are a lot of voices which are also being raised, sometimes rightfully, about some content not being appropriate even in that. Over 96%-97% of those issues eventually get addressed at the content creator’s level only, by self regulation. I think maturity comes with time. We need to give it time.

The two domains that wield a lot of influence in India are Bollywood and sports, and both happen to be your domain. Any predictions you’d want to make on where we are headed?

I am so glad we have done well in the Olympics, Paralympics, and now Deaflympics, it’s great to see India doing good in sports. As for films, I won’t restrict or limit Indian film industry to the term ‘Bollywood’. Even if you look at the Indian contingent to Cannes, you saw people from various backgrounds on the red carpet. It’s a huge industry, and we have great advantage with the regional languages and the kind of different content we have. I don’t see many countries having that advantage. Look at this year, from Pushpa, RRR to KGF2, these films have done wonders. Something happening in smaller states is making big noise at International levels. I may sound a bit harsh, but I totally do not agree with the term Bollywood now. It is the Indian film industry.

What is your favourite genre of cinema?

I sleep for around four hours. I rarely get time to watch movies. It’s only during the pandemic when I was home for a few days. I wish I had the leisure to play sports and watch movies but unfortunately I don’t. But I keep taking the feedback, as a politician and the minister-in-charge, from various stakeholders on what needs to be corrected, what needs to be done at our level. I keep reading what you write and what needs to be seen. I closely watch what is hit, and what is a miss. But I can’t afford to lose those four hours of sleep.

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