Does India need international co-productions?

    Mumbai: India might have the largest film industry in the world with a booming business. But international connections and co-productions are always welcome. To put it simply, a co-production between two countries is when, thanks to a signed treaty, content gets treated as a national property in both nations and therefore is allowed to claim tax benefits/rebates from both sides.
    The FICCI convention on the international co-productions, with special emphasis on the Indian connection, shed some light on what kind of treaties are in existence today and what can be hoped for tomorrow.
    Carlos Donzella from the EU defined co-productions as signing memorandums of understanding with different countries, related to filming and content and commented on the three treaties currently in existence in Asia: Singapore, Malaysia and India, with specific reference to FICCI. These treaties are related to not just funding but also practical incentives. Theirs is a venture capital fund, public money that is available to be used for funding of projects, depending on the kind of risks involved. It’s basically investment-based and grants funding. One of their primary conditions is that they get paid off first at the end of the venture. For this reason it is difficult to find two funds to co-produce a film, simply because their conditions might clash.
    Where EU is consciously working on their co-productions, Germany is looking forward to getting officially linked with India for co-production. According to Norbert Sauer, an EP, there is state money available in Germany for co-production of films but the film needs to be shot in Germany and the main cast needs to be German, but the rest of the crew can be from any other country. This is essential to be able to sell the film in the home country. With ideas/partners that are exciting for both, projects can be made.
    With the USA it is a different ballgame altogether. As American Pride Films group president Namrata Singh Gujral puts it, "You have Hollywood here, where else to go?" At some level Bollywood is considered a threat to Hollywood, what with budgets and box office collections soaring and that hinders co-production deals between India and the US officially. Unofficially, even Gujral has recently made a movie called, Americanizing Shelly. She believes that as long as the content is something that appeals to both countries’ audiences, you have a winner on your hands.
    Canadian Heritage director for international policy, planning, programs and outreach Gordon Platt has a slightly different view on things. He says that it is easy to strike co-production deals with nations with a similar cost structure, similar money and spending patterns like between Canada and Brazil or South Africa. With countries like China or India, it becomes a challenge. Out of the 53 co-productions they have, none are with India and Platt hopes to change that. Commonality of the English language, talent base existence in India and Canada and the international culture fascination in Canada will help such a treaty. In turn, the treaty helps in getting a sort of ‘dual-citizenship’ for the content thereby getting it more benefits in terms of marketing, broadcasting and other incentives in both countries.
    With Pakistan just opening up its doors and censorship for movies now, co-production deals are still a thing of the future. But for what it’s worth, many new movies are being made and some of them are even seeing Indian releases like Khuda Ke Liye and vice versa like Taare Zameen Par, Welcome etc. With such collaborations, a friendly and liberal environment is created which is very favorable to ease tensions between the two nations and further movie relations and more, says Pakistani filmmaker Raana Shaikh.
    From an Indian perspective, Director of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Sangeeta Singh is quick to point out that the Indian government does not provide any direct finance or incentives for co-production of films. But the vibrancy of the industry, the intensive talent pools and the huge markets here are enough to enthuse people to want to co-produce films with India.
    The two primary benefits for India from co-production include increase in market access and the potential export value of the content. Some countries have a green quota rule, which make it easier for a movie to be marketed when under an official co-production deal. The banner is important from an Indian outlook, both coming in and going out.
    To sum it up, Sauer says that treaties are not really required as such, because even unofficially India features high on the co-producers list. Already unofficial deals and co-productions are happening all over the world, with India as a partner and it is only a matter of time and negotiation before India features as a prime country to co-produce, officially, movies with.
    Swapping of creative and technical know-how makes the difference in international markets. Co-productions help in showcasing two different national sensibilities, which make them more successful than run-of-the-mill private co-producing deals.