The Lights Dim on Rajasthan Film Industry

A Bollywood film set in the mesmerizing deserts of Rajasthan has just been nominated as India’s entry for the Oscars. But luck is far from shining on the state’s movie industry.

Struck with a plethora of problems like paucity of funds and second rung actors, the Rajasthani film fraternity is almost drifting into anonymity. Not a single film in the last 15 years here has managed to recover even 50 percent of its total cost. The decades-old industry today barely manages to produce one or two films a year.

Much hyped films like “Chokhi Aye Bindani”, “Maa Bap Ne Bhoolje Mati” and “Jai Jeen Mata” failed to collect even 30 percent of their production cost.

Mohan Kataria, an eminent Rajasthani film producer, says one major reason for the industry’s troubles is the state government’s reluctance to promote it. He bemoans the government’s un-preparedness to provide any tax concessions.

“The state government is ready to provide a multimillion film city to outsiders but it is least concerned about developing its own in-house production houses.”

He also blames second grade star casts for the debacle of the industry.

“Today no eminent star is ready to work with the local film industry. Even eminent local stars have shifted base to Mumbai as they are well aware of the stark realities here.”

Many may not know it, but well-known actor Irrfan Khan hails from this state.

Film technician Arif Mohmmad says due to lack of infrastructure, a Rajasthani film is usually shot in 16 mm and then converted into 35 mm.

“Such conversions not only spoil the picture quality but also disturb the quality of audio inputs.” He says in the era of multiplexes such low quality production can never sustain.

In the last 15 years, apparently not a single film has succeeded in doing average business except “Bai Chali Sasariye”.

Chandra Prakash Paliwal, who used be a prominent distributor of Rajasthani films but left the profession because he was not making money, says government protection and big investments are the driving force behind the success of Malayalam, Bengali, Telugu and Marathi films.

He says one can even find big Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai and Amitabh Bachchan working in other regional films. “But no one is ready to be part of the Rajasthan film industry.”

So while Bollywood film “Paheli” may be headed for the shimmer of the Oscars, the state that forms its backdrop is struggling to keep its celluloid dream alive.

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