“Baahubali” star Rana Daggubati who also serves as a board member of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, has revealed plans to engage with South Asian independent filmmakers at this year’s edition.
The festival, which was hitherto focused on discovering Indian films and filmmakers, has pivoted to becoming one that spotlights South Asian talent, meaning films from India’s neighbors will also be showcased.
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Daggubati is uniquely placed to foster the burgeoning independent cinema scene via several companies that he is involved in. His first film as an independent producer was “A Belly Full of Dreams” (2006) with which his company Spirit Media was launched. The company is currently working with leading platforms and studios on new projects. He has also invested in tech companies like game development studio Gamezop and Iknoz Club, a metaverse company for established Indian film and pop-culture IPs. He set up media-tech accelerator Anthill Studio with venture capital firm Anthill Ventures and has also launched SouthBay, a pop-culture marketplace that is driven by setting new narratives in cinema, showbiz, music and marketing.
In addition, Daggubati’s family business Suresh Productions, established in 1964, has produced some 170 films in 13 Indian languages, operates a film distribution company with 400+ theaters, has three studio spaces in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam and a film school in Hyderabad.
“There’s no dearth to cinema that’s being made in each region but what happens is mostly it stops in the region. It doesn’t go beyond the language, like a Telugu independent film usually stays in Telugu and finishes its life cycle within the theatrical and digital broadcast windows,” Daggubati told Variety. “With MAMI, we’re trying to encourage a larger ecosystem of this and primarily different stories being told, which are possible now more than ever before.”
What Daggubati hopes to achieve at the festival via his companies is to break the independent cinema circuit out of its debt-ridden shackles, where financing in many cases is from high-interest loans, and ease it into a space where exposure and sales can be achieved.
“I love the initiative of being South Asian. There is so much more cinema and the penetration of that cinema in India has gotten pretty phenomenal, whether it’s key drama films, or them coming directly to streamers and theaters, I just feel like there needs to be a different search,” Daggubati said. “It’s been too much of just big spectacle, Hollywood films that came to India, and even the independent American films don’t land up here anymore. So we just feel like that ecosystem should flourish and grow. Because that’s the cinema that we watched growing up. And so whatever films that we are able to distribute, we’re able to co-produce, co-finance, we’d definitely be interested.”
Via his tech and culture companies, Daggubati is building IPs from nonfiction and subcultures. “We’re constantly in this progress and hunt for newer ideas and filmmakers. There’ll be a large team from all of the organizations, whether it’s Spirit or Suresh Productions or SouthBay at the festival and just trying to do that,” Daggubati said.
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