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Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI) is another den of parasites that should be done away with

The sole of aim this series of articles is to help the Modi Government grasp  what has actually been going on under the aegis of the I&B Ministry for decades and how it has become the happy playground of freeloaders and parasites and white ants of corruption that have been corroding our economy. We are doing this in the interest of the nation and its people and we hope that the leaders of the nation who often talk of ‘minimum government’ are paying attention to what is being propounded in these columns.

Our Prime Minister and the Minister of Information and Broadcasting must appreciate the fact that there are other sections of industry besides the Indian Film Industry that are far more deserving of the Government of India’s (GOI) revival and survival doles. The film industry of course needs GOI’s support in areas like creation of a regulatory body to prevent cartelization and to develop a credible reporting infrastructure to monitor its growth for effective policy making. GOI can do another favour as well. It should free the film industry from the tyranny of multiple taxation regimes so that the industry can continue to make films for ‘children’ without seeking financial doles.

CFSI, the beginning

CFSI came into existence to add further luster to the image of ‘Chacha’ Nehru. It was like the colorful rose stuck in the buttonhole of the bland white ‘sherwani’ of the first Prime Minister of India. He had to be seen to be serving the cause of children and thus CFSI was created in 1955 at the cost of the government exchequer to ‘expressly’ promote children’s cinema as if the children of India were starved of filmed entertainment. In effect, it was  a mechanism to hand out doles to a handful of the regime’s favorites, to make GOI-funded ‘unwatchable’ films.

On the other hand, GOI heavily taxed high-profile filmmakers, artistes, and film professionals in the name of ‘progressive’ taxation and treated them as ‘criminals’. The Income Tax officials particularly targeted the film industry for ‘ugahi’, extracting money. Their affinity continues even now. The Internal Revenue Services (IRS) bureaucrats somehow find ways to get posted to most film bodies under the aegis of the I&B Ministry.     

Why do we need GOI to promote children’s cinema when 90% of mainstream films are made for children?

When nearly 90% of our mainstream cinema produces films meant to entertain children, why should GOI promote children’s cinema? Expressly “CFSI seeks to provide children with clean and healthy value-based entertainment with a view to look after their entertainment and educational needs through the medium of films.” What does it end up doing in reality?

It makes unwatchable, low-quality festival films that never get released anywhere except on captive distribution channels of GOI like Doordarshan. Children don’t watch these ‘boring’ films even if they are shown free. They spend their limited pocket money to watch films with their favorite stars like Rajanikant, the Khans, Hritik Rosan, etc. performing their heroic feats, fighting bad guys, cracking jokes, singing and dancing, and indulging in all kinds of buffoonery.

They prefer to watch ‘Chota Bheem’ to imbibe ‘good’ values rather than watch ‘non-decipherable’ and fake art-house films made by a cabal of freeloading filmmakers. As far as meeting the educational needs of children are concerned, they have far more exciting, absorbing, and educational TV programmes on the National Geographic and Animal Planet beaming directly into their homes.

So, CFSI films neither entertain nor educate because they are hardly watched. All right, some of them occasionally win awards in film festivals around the world. However, nowhere in CFSI’s mandate is it mentioned that it must make films that win awards in film festivals. But let us nail this argument too.

Film festivals and their awards are a carefully nurtured and protected scam

More than 3,000 active film festivals are organized around the world, creating temporary employment opportunities for nearly 1,00,000 people. Of these festivals, hardly 25-30 are of any significance. The top five are of course Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, Venice, and Toronto. The combined audience of the 3,000 film festivals will be a few lakhs and not even a million. Nearly 95% of the three to four thousand films that circulate in the festival circuit every year find it tough to get released on mainstream platforms. Even the films showcased in the prestigious competition sections of the top-five, excluding Toronto that is non-competitive, are watched by a minuscule mainstream audience. 

This shows that the film festival establishment is largely self-serving. It finds ways to sustain itself by creating a network of bureaucrats, politicians, policy-makers, film aficionados, journalists, filmmakers, festival programmers, film schools, and others. CFSI has become a part of this network of freeloaders who survive in the name of promoting the art and craft of cinema. The fact is in spite of the hullabaloo about promoting cinema, even the top-line film festivals vie with each other for mainstream films in their programming. They need stars and the associated glitz and glamour to secure sponsorships.

A few CFSI films, you can count them on fingers, have managed to win awards here and there. In spite of that, most of them are of very little artistic significance and downright terrible. Since CFSI is under the aegis of the I&B Ministry, its films are routinely conferred some national award in this or that category to justify the existence of a dead and moribund institution.

Does the I&B Minister know that nearly all films made by CFSI in the past 15 or more years have never had a mainstream release?

They must have cost hundreds of crores to make but remain in cans without having been watched by their intended target audience, the children of India. The CFSI officials play a familiar trick to fulfill the conditions of funding of a ‘fully funded’ film. They have a morning show of the film in some theatre to declare officially that the film has been released. That’s that. The film may do a few film festivals domestically and internationally thereafter depending on the individual initiative of the filmmaker. It may even win an award in some remote corner of the world in some ‘children’s’ film festival. It may by some remote chance win an award in the ‘Generation’ section of Berlinale or some children’s section in Venice or Toronto. However, Indian children rarely watch CFSI films even if these are telecast on Doordarshan in some afternoon slot. They have better options on TV for their post-school entertainment and education.

This should have been a matter of shame for the officials of CFSI and the I&B ministry but it’s not. Moreover, there is none to question them. It’s presupposed that CFSI exists to do personal favors to those who are close to the regime, all at the cost of taxpayers’ money.

CFSI and I&B establishment carry on with waste of people’s money year after year

There cannot be a better example of the brazen and callous shamelessness of the CFSI establishment and I&B bureaucrats than this. The succeeding Ministers of I&B don’t even go into the details of how this organization is run. They happily install someone close to the regime as the CFSI Chairman, who gets his/her cronies into various CFSI committees and manages to distribute govt. largesse to the people who are close to him/her. They spend crores heartlessly without much care and mercy, knowing it well that the money is being thrown down the drain and it will serve no artistic or any other useful purpose of the nation or cinema.

It simply sustains some freeloaders and looters, some of whom may even have a very high socio-cultural profile and who still partake in the loot without qualms. Most of them are looking for free government money, having failed to get funding or support from the mainstream cinema establishment. For the community of parasites used to free funding, CFSI is one of the few last resorts apart from the Films Division of India, NFDC, and other ‘sarkari sources of funds’. 

In a nation that witnesses farmers’ suicide every day,  wasting money on CFSI is a criminal act

This is very important. Since the credo of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is ‘na khaoonga, na khaane doonga’, the CFSI is a fit case for him to demonstrate his noble intent and purpose. It’s designed to help freeloaders who add nothing to the nation’s GDP or its cultural richness. The mainstream Indian cinema is already doing well, making films that are also watched and immensely enjoyed by children. It has been doing this for decades. The contribution of CFSI has been ‘nil’ to the development and growth of children’s cinema in India. It’s time for GOI to withdraw totally from such a wasteful activity that breeds corruption, cronyism and leads to open loot of people’s money.

Had this writer been the Minister of I&B, he would do the following:

  1. Order an internal audit of CFSI and the way its funds have been used over the years.
  2. Order an artistic and commercial audit of CFSI films.
  3. Transfer the entire library of CFSI to Prasaar Bharati or sell it to some emerging online internet platform like JIO, Netflix, and Eros.
  4. Offer VRS and a parting handshake to a handful of CFSI employees.
  5. Let the Child Welfare & Development Ministry take over the organization of the bi-annual International Children’s Film Festival of India in association with the External Affairs Ministry.
  6. Shutter CFSI for good and move out of this space.

It’s time for GOI and the I&B Ministry to begin the process of shuttering avenues of bureaucratic micro-corruption and wasteful expenditure

The objective of writing these articles is to point out to the concerned people in the I&B Ministry that they should use all available resources more judiciously and productively. The Ministry must stop following the ancient rote and rut and look at its working afresh in the light of the views expressed in these articles, unless it’s happy carrying on with old indefensible and irrational follies.

The I&B Minister is not obliged to defend and sustain a rotten establishment. That’s not his mandate. His mandate is to reform, reorganize, and make the Ministry and departments under him more effective and purposive tools of growth. He should always bear in his mind that he only has one God to serve, as the Pradhan Sevak puts it, the 125 crore people of India.  

In our next article we shall be looking at NFDC from the perspective of its usefulness. Though we have written a series of articles under NFDC Expose, this one will be arguing about the redundancy of an organization like NFDC. Keep reading.