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March 23, 2018
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Smriti Irani questions film makers' 'manufactured' controversiesThe Union Information and Broadcasting Minister promised to make it easier for global and Indian film makers to secure official permissions

Hitting out at Bollywood producers for manufacturing outrage ahead of a film release in order to spur greater box office interest, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani on Sunday said the film industry must introspect on the issue.

She was reacting to a query on the film industry’s woes by film maker Karan Johar, who referred to her as an industry ‘insider’ and said that Indian films are a part of its soft power is also at times a ‘soft target.’

“My issue is this – now that you have recognised me as an insider… Honestly, put your hands on your heart and say how many of us manufacture that outrage because we don’t have a film that is that good… but we know that we will get the eyeballs if we create some controversy,” the Minister said.

When a flustered Mr. Johar tried to steer the conversation away and said that their interaction at industry body Federation Of Indian Chamber Of Commerce & Industry’s (FICCI) annual media and entertainment conclave must remain ‘strictly non-controversial’, the Minister said in jest: “I don’t mind controversies. I thought my second name was controversy.”

“The industry must stop saying they have woes. We are not bechaara (pitiable). It’s a ₹1.3 lakh crore industry which puts food on the plate for 3.6 million people,” Ms. Irani said.

Umbrella body for films soon

Promising to make it easier for global and Indian film makers to secure official permissions, Ms. Irani said that some of the government organisations such as the Directorate for Film Festivals, the National Film Development Corporation, Films Division and the Children’s Film Society operate in silos.

“When you work in silos, you basically express to the world and the whole industry that we view it as a fragmented industry – which is not the view of this government. We are hopeful that we have our committees which will bring all of these organisations under one umbrella so that one does not need to run from one place to another for bringing a story to light,” she said.

Urging the film industry to highlight the shooting locations that are easier to approach for permissions as well as are appealing to the cinema-makers, Ms. Irani said that this will help reduce the dependence on a few traditional locales that India is known for and throw up new options. She said Niti Aayog will encourage States to simplify their local permissions regime.

The Minister also urged film makers to work with mobile phone manufacturers to enhance the audio and video experience for viewers as smart phones can be a more affordable means than multiplexes for reaching content to the end user, given the drop in data usage costs.

Ms. Irani also mooted the use of Artificial Intelligence in film making. “Not many people understand how AI in film making can enhance the viewer experience. Can we use data analytics to understand the needs of our consumers? What are their preferences, what are they binging on? It might seem intrusive to some people but the viewer will get access to the kind of content they want,” she pointed out.

Speaking earlier, FICCI President Rashesh Shah said that India’s media and entertainment industry has been growing at nearly 12% annually and stressed the need to promote the country as an entertainment hub to the world and facilitate necessary policy changes.