THE FUTURE IS HERE – KABIR ARORA
On 26th September 2015 the Digital India campaign a Flagship Program of the government of India was launched. The initiative includes plans to connect all the areas of India with high-speed internet networks. At present around 450 million people in India use internet and there has been a 4-8% growth in the past 6 months. According to the IAMAI-IMRB report Internet penetration in India is currently around 31%. The report also points out that Urban India with an estimated population of 444 million already has 269 million (60%) internet users. In contrast the Rural India, with an estimated population of 906 million as per 2011 census, has only 163 million (17%) internet users. Even the Film & T.V. industry has now zoomed forward into digitization. They are now able to showcase their work on various digital media applications and websites. This proves to be a boon as the Industry is no longer confined to theatrical screenings, TV or DVD rights as the only option available to them. The onset of Independent Cinema now makes way for the small budget indie projects which need not be confined to the world of film festivals, institute screenings and film clubs alone. Alternative digital distribution avenues are not just offering more choices and platforms but are also helping filmmakers overcome the problems of budgets and censorship. Several of the platforms have multiplied recently. In addition to international services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video there are now a host of Indian platforms such as Hotstar, TVF Play, Eros Now, Flick Vine, Bigflix, Arré, Voot, and Muvizz.
For filmmakers who dabble in non-feature presentations, the distribution and exhibition of films becomes a difficult proposition. There are very few opportunities available to these filmmakers to screen and generate money for their documentaries, short films and other features. Using a digital platform also helps connect sponsors and corporations with filmmakers. These digital services now offer opportunities for submission of short films, documentaries etc. from all over the world. The world has changed and hence it isn’t necessary that you specifically have to be an established filmmaker or a writer to exhibit your project. For instance Vikram Gandhi was mainly a journalist and a documentary filmmaker who went on to make the critically acclaimed American drama ‘Barry’ based on Obama’s life at Columbia University. The Film was released last September at the Toronto Film Festival. Shortly after its release, Netflix acquired the global rights and released ‘Barry’ on its platform in December 2016.
This is just the beginning of the digital revolution. In the next four to five years smartphone penetration in India is expected to grow to 520 million. It is a lot more convenient to view content on the smartphones. Rather than going to a theatre or watching programs on the TV, one can simply watch the diverse content from across the globe ranging from movies, web series, documentaries to short films and podcasts. Digital distribution acts an amazing counterbalance. It cuts out everybody and connects makers directly to the audience at zero cost. These screens surely are the future.