Films Division (FD), the central government’s film arm, will create history with the commercial release of “Bansuri Guru”, a feature length documentary on the life of flute maestro Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia on April 12. This will be the first commercial release of an FD film in its 65 year old history.
That’s not all. If the film clicks with the audiences, FD has plans to regularly release feature length documentaries in commercial theatres. “With this release we want to test the audience response. We don’t have any budget for promotion as of now; however, we’re relying on the social media. If this experiment works, there could be a paradigm shift in the way documentaries are released in the country.” says V.S. Kundu, the Director General of Films Division.
“Bansuri Guru”, 60 minutes, is helmed by the legendary musician’s son Rajeev Chaurasia. Films Division chose to release this film because of its subject. Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia has a huge following and a film about him is sure to catch eyeballs.
Currently Films Division has no provision for Print and Advertising (P&A) budget. “If this experiment succeeds then we’ll try to create such a provision. Though we can’t compete with the huge marketing budgets of mindless big budget films, we will do our bit to promote our films. All releases will be strategised and planned. We have built a presence on social media and we’ll harness that to reach out audiences directly.” Kundu says.
After taking over as the Director General of Films Division, Kundu has started screening documentary films at FD’s Mumbai premises. FD is also quite active in promoting these screenings through social media.
“The idea behind the theatrical release is catch eyeballs and create buzz around our films. Then we will capitalize on the awareness by releasing the films on television and DVD”, says Kundu.
Films Division was set up in 1948 as the film arm of the government. It made more than 8,000 newsreels and documentaries in last six decades. It was mandatory (legally still is) for every theatre to screen newsreel produced by FD. However, gradually FD has lost its theatrical presence due to various reasons such as digitization of film exhibition and arrival of multiplexes.
Will FD also help release independent documentaries? Kundu says, “FD will not be able to support financially but it will offer its online and social media platforms to spread the word about them.”
“Bansuri Guru” releases through PVR Director’s Rare in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Allahabad and Bengaluru for one week.