In conversation with Shiladitya Bora (Head, PVR Director’s Rare)

By Anup Thanvi

Best city for indie film audiences? “Undoubtedly Mumbai!”

In conversation with Shiladitya Bora (Head, PVR Director’s Rare), the man responsible for independent offbeat cinema now successfully making it to a mainstream Indian theatre near you.

How did you come up with the concept of PVR Director’s Rare?

PVR Director’s Rare was launched to create a win–win situation for 3 sets of people.

Audience: There is a certain niche audience that wants to watch alternate content on the big screen. Hardcore film buffs no longer have to choose between catching world cinema masterpieces on a small screen or waiting for annual festivals to bring the latest independent films to theatres.  PVR Director’s Rare will be regularly bringing award-winning and critically-acclaimed films from across the globe to discerning audiences. Our big city audiences at least have become very experimental. And to make our film industry a wholesome one, we’ve got to have space for every voice, only then it will be able to grow. Over the last 8 months we have been able to secure a major percentage of this audience base.

Filmmaker: Most film production corporations today are making films that drive high on star value and entertain smaller town audiences more than the chic urbane city crowds. It’s not that the films that would entertain the niche audience are not getting made. They are being made in plenty and they are driven by content and not by price, or the star. Most content driven films are comparatively inexpensive in comparison to the star-driven masala entertainers. But very few of these films find distributors. Most distributors in India are still driven by stars and budgets. The remaining corporate distributors barely choose 5-6 such films in a year. So there is a huge gap. With the theatrical release, many other sources of revenues like satellite, home video, video on demand etc open up for the filmmaker. The visibility also helps in their future projects. Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronfsky, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Inarritu … all these filmmakers started in much smaller indie way. We are certain that this platform will give birth to new forthcoming champions of cinema in our country.

And then finally, PVR  was the pioneer in the multiplex chain revolution. Now the time has come to start a new revolution in the Indian cinema exhibition. We as PVR want to be the first ones again with a new vertical in alternate programming or limited release that will give us not only the first mover’s advantage but also re-establish once again our coin in the business of films exhibition and distribution. It also creates tremendous amounts of goodwill for the brand.

How do you choose the films that are screened under Director’s Rare?

The films are selected by me, along with Mr. Prakhar Joshi, Head of Programming for PVR Cinemas, under the guidance of Mr. Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, Joint Managing Director, PVR Limited

The most important criterion is the demand for a film. How much buzz is associated with the film. Other parameters include past festival selections and wins, production value etc. We also take feedback from senior film journalists and industry people.

If a film has been screened at film festivals and has won awards, there is already a demand for the film and hence marketing becomes comparatively easier.

The PVR Director’s Rare team closely monitors the major film festivals to look for the right indie content. We have tried to keep the process very simple. Any independent filmmaker can approach us to release their film under the Director’s Rare initiative. They need to submit us a preview copy of the film, along with the other relevant details. The film is then reviewed by us internally and in most cases we give a decision asap. Once a film has been picked up for release under Director’s Rare, we then work out a customized release plan, depending on the scope of the film.

Which of those films have been your biggest hits?

Love Wrinkle Free has done exceptionally well and it had a 2 weeks’ run in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.  Despite the IPL season and a plethora of other films (Hollywood, Hindi as well as regional) that were released alongside, LWF demonstrated a strong footing thanks to the outstanding reviews across the board as well as audience appreciation. LWF turned out to be a clear winner for the PVR Director’s Rare as it has successfully crossed over from the ‘independent cinema’ category to ‘good cinema’ which gets acclaim from both critics and masses alike.

The documentary Supermen of Malegaon had a 3 weeks’ run in Mumbai and we sold close to 6000 tickets. Kshay did very good business in Mumbai where even on a weekday the occupancy was higher than 50%.

Since films that come to you are mostly low budget films and are marketed less or not marketed at all, how commercially viable do they eventually turn out to be?

Making profit is not the only objective of PVR. Our main goal is to create a culture where independent films like in any other country have an audience. And yes, we do benefit financially to some extent but it’s the credibility, brand image and a word of appreciation both from cinephiles and filmmakers that gives PVR a new dimension.

 What kind of responses has your initiative garnered?

We have been able to create a loyal fan base. There is a good chunk of people who specially come to see PVR Director’s Rare releases. We are working on to expand this audience base.

Which city in the country is more receptive to such films?

Undoubtedly Mumbai.

What are the other upcoming films that will be  a part of your venture?

We had Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (digitally restored) that just released.

– Amlan Dutta’s BOM (One Day Ahead of Democracy) opens on Nov 23.

– Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s CELLULOID MAN

– Manav Kaul’s HANSA

– A couple of more films with NFDC

– We are in the process of short-listing few more documentaries over the next 6 months

– We are also planning to pick a few films from this year’s MAMI (Mumbai Film Festival)

You seem to release your films in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru, mainly the metros. Any plans of expansion? Targeting any other cities?

It entirely depends on the film. The release plan for JAANE BHI DO YAARON was across 11 cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Pune, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Surat and Vadodara.

How is your recent initiative of selecting 6 feature length documentaries for release in India shaping up?

We have received some brilliant entries. We will announce the shortlisted entries (which may be more than 6) with the launch of the official PVR Director’s Rare website soon.

Considering the budget constraint of the films, are you planning to adopt any innovative marketing strategy for your films?

Well, succinctly put, PVR provides guaranteed shows in premiere properties. Guarantee of a prime time show timing. On an average Director’s Rare films are programmed in prime time slots between 6 pm to 10 pm. Marketing support comes in the form of free theatrical trailer run, branding space at PVR properties, complimentary ads in partner magazines and publications, PR support by PVR’s media agency, digital media promotion in PVR social media pages. We are working on a few corporate sponsorships which will provide us the much needed springboard in the form of financial support for optimum marketing /publicity.

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