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Chennai, July 14 “Film industry is not a high risk industry. I am living proof of it,” said Mr Kamal Haasan, film artiste, inaugurating a day-long seminar on “Indian Cinema — Winds of Change”, organised by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC), Madras Film Society (MFS), and US Consulate General, Chennai.

“Bankers need not worry and brand us as a negative industry because even we do not work with negatives. (Today) everything is digitialised,” he said, evoking laughter from the audience.

He said the film industry lacked infrastructure, mainly theatres and technology, that would ensure transparency and prevent illegal practices. America has over one-lakh theatre screens, China about 60,000, while India only has about 9,000 screens, which reflect in the revenues generated by the Indian film industry, he said.

Hollywood makes about 600 films a year grossing about $80 billion in revenues, while India makes over 1,000 films a year generating only about $4 billion.

Content profile

Mr Farokh T. Balsara, Partner, Ernst & Young, said South Indian cinema needed to collaborate with people outside the industry and adapt its content to the changing demographic profile of young citizens who were technology savvy and sported a global outlook.

“The South Indian film industry is one of contradictions. Budgets are small, content is regional, revenues from overseas distribution are low and you are an insular, inward looking industry. Yet your popularity is high. Until ‘Sivaji’ released we (from North India) did not know your potential,” he said.

‘Chennai is cheaper’

Mr Abirami Sv Rm Ramanathan, President, MFS, said the industry wanted IACC to organise more buyer-seller meets, seminars and get trade delegations from the US to the city.

“Foreign investors think Indian cinema means Bombay. But Chennai is better and cheaper in many ways — labour, technology and professionalism. Unless trade delegations visit the city, they cannot realise our potential,” he said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 15, 2007)
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