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OCT
20
By Karan
 
When Michael Edward Palin called the Wagha Border ceremony a 'Carefully Choreographed Contempt', awed I was, not only at the audacity of one of the World’s most renowned travel documentarians third eye casual comment, but about the fact that there was something amiss in his understanding about the two Nations. On one hand, I would easily take offence at a foreigner using such vocabulary referencing my sub-continent, on the other though, how many of us Indian`s would actually feel the true significance of this ceremony ourselves? May be this is because majority of us have not lived through the Partition Struggle, may be majority of us have not felt what compulsory geographical separation from our loved ones would be and may be, majority of us live with some care-a-hoot attitude about our past. The closest you would actually come across to understanding the true aspect of this ceremony, is when u become a part of it, and fortunate I was that we revealed the first look of KYA DILLI KYA LAHORE, at exactly the same place..

Revealing the first look of ‘Kya Dilli Kya Lahore’ at Wagha Border felt like something out of a blockbuster film - unreal, jubilant, loud, dramatic, colourful and completed with an action sequence. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more suited venue then the Border, a symbol of peace and unity that it is for both, India and Pakistan. The experience overwhelmed me on so many levels and the support and encouragement we received from both sides of the crowd had rendered me speechless. They were exchanging joyous remarks like ‘Hind-Pak Dosti, Zindabad’ and various jokes in Punjabi that sadly I can’t recall. And the fact that it was 14th of August, Pakistan’s Independence Day, followed by India’s the very next, this very much was so relevant for one to say ‘Kya Dilli Kya Lahore’

Initially, I was a little apprehensive about selecting the Border as the venue, considering the enormity of the place and problems we may face with getting permissions. It was a risk but luckily it paid off; we acquired the necessary permissions within one week, instead of the usual 20, thanks largely to the Border Security Force. The only pending one that remained was the one from the Intelligence and this we received at 3 o’clock on the actual day, 14 th August, something that only added to the charm of what was already taking place. In case the permission hadn’t been granted, we had a contingency plan of launching the event at the Swarn Jayanti Gate instead which is nearly 100mtrs away from the border gates.

One of my first memories of the day was reading the sign ‘Lahore, 22 km, Attari border 1 km as we were approaching the border; and for the life of me, I can’t think of any words to describe what went through me at that moment. It was simply surreal. Then, later in the evening, we saw wedding-like celebrations happening on the Pakistan side of the border. People were celebrating their Independence Day feasting on delicious local Salan and delights like Shahi Tukda. I could’ve hopped, skipped and jumped to that side just for one bite but sadly, formalities got in the way and the team and I just watched, with our tummies rumbling. Other moments that will stay with me is when Vishwajeet Pradhan, the actor who plays a Pakistani captain in the film referred to me as Karan Johar; when he stood corrected, the clever guy reverted with ‘Kya Dilli Kya Lahore, Kya Arora, Kya Johar.’ This slip-up had the audience and everyone else present in fits of laughter.

The extraordinary happenings of the day were followed by the mid-night march that was initiated by Kuldip Nayar 17 years back. Unfortunately, Mr Nayar couldn’t join us due to ill-health but I met him later on the way back to Delhi and narrated to him the journey and my experience.

I often get asked why I chose to do a film like Kya Dilli Kya Lahore and this happened on the launch day as well. Knowing it would, I went with an already prepared answer of what I normally say but on the day of 14th August, something else happened. I have no idea where it came from but I suddenly remembered the stories my Grandmother used to tell me of the partition time when I was child and her experience and memories of Pakistan. Like millions, my grandmother had lost everything during the partition and had crossed the border in the most atrocious conditions. In that moment, my normally prepared speech went out of the window and all I could think of and talk about was the stories I grew up with, another one of the small miracles that had ordained the day.

I would very much like to thank the authorities of Wagha Border, especially the Border Security Force for their help and support in making our dream come true. I will forever be grateful. And my gratitude to the people of India and Pakistan for their love, joyous spirit and humour they shared with us on the day. Hind-Pak Dosti, Zindabad indeed!

The aggression of the border forces with which they perform the March Past, the discipline, the demeanour and the pride, simply leaves you speechless and overwhelmed. Mr. Palin may be had his own notion of it being a carefully choreographed contempt when he called it so, but it is not. It is the love and respect within the forces from across the border, only masked by the aggression and loyalty towards their duty that creates another impression. To understand what this really means, u either got to be a Hindustani or Pakistani. None other shall be able to feel the love and respect we share.

 
 

 
Sep
21
By Karan
 
WRONGED I WAS WITH MY PREJUDICE about film scripts on India and Pakistan, till I actually heard the Premise of this story for the first time.
KYA DILLI, KYA LAHORE....

I knew that inevitably this story would pave its way to the big screen, so why not I be the lucky one? And it happened so. The script was developed to perfection and then came in the dialogues to give our Principal characters an appropriate tonality of a Lahori Indian and a Delhite Pakistani.

While being a film set in 1948, it’s not a saga of partition. Its not about men slaughtering women and children. It’s a witty take on the Indo-Pak irony; the core story of the film is a complete work of fiction and has an entertaining cinematic canvas.With a very non-chalant, light-hearted approach this film will touch some never before explored underlying emotions of culturally similar humans living across the borders

With a natural flow of thrill, drama & emotions the film promises some ticklish moments of human connection in circumstances that are rare to come across, yet, makes you sit back and think once you are done watching. 

The characterisation, the screenplay and most importantly the dialogues, for once shall leave u with a completly different impression of that person across the border you might come across one day!
To sum up this post..
KDKL =a Lahori Indian + a Dilliwala Pakistani + their newly found patriotism + being human + survival or not?

 
 

 
Sep
4
By Karan // 2,039 Comments
 
The after-effects from Cannes were only just wearing off, that Bhindi Baazaar has then again found itself in the limelight by being showcased at the 67th Venice Film Festival that runs from the 1st to 11th September 2010 at Venice Lido.

The Venice Film festival has always aimed to raise awareness and promote various aspects of international cinema in all its forms: as art, entertainment and as an industry. Bhindi Baazaar, has now set out to create its mark at the festival and to etch a position for itself in the minds of global cinema lovers all around the world. The type of exposure Bhindi Baazaar will amass at this platform will help not only create a strong buzz among the international
and Indian audiences about the movie but also speak volumes of films arising from a niche category.

There is so much to learn from such platforms, right from production values to creating a strong presence in the global market. Its a major boon for films with a non-commercial background to cash in on the international recognition in order to create a standing for themselves in the Hindi film industry. An industry that thrives on commercial cinema can then reap benefits from non-commercial films with a strong international backing.
 
 

 
Jul
7
By Karan // 2,495 Comments
 
The just concluded Cannes Film Festival is the trading and showbiz mecca for film fraternity around the globe. At some time or the other, a lot of global film makers and investors have drawn inspiration by the grandeur of this landmark film event and aspired to showcase, network and trade their products. I see it as world’s leading “Film Bazaar” which brings together artistes, directors, entrepreneurs, sales agents, studio heads and buyers under one roof. This time, I had the opportunity of being a part of this “bazaar” along with my creative director and my investment advisor. The agenda, apart from gaining a live experience, was to create a soft buzz for our forthcoming film “Bhindi Baazaar”.
Though this was my second trip to Cannes after attending the MIP TV Festival on a previous occasion, the week-long stay at Cannes 2010 enriched me with the trading and networking intricacies of showbiz business amidst a global pool of film talent, marketing ideas and entrepreneurship.

Considering the fact that our first independent movie project “Bhindi Bazaar” starring the highly talented bunch of Kay Kay Menon, Pawan Malhotra, Prashant Narayan, Piyush Mishra, Shilpa Shukla amongst others had yet to go into post production stage, the challenge was to create a soft buzz and curiosity amongst targeted fraternity members with minimal efforts and inputs during the festival.

Our “warming up” exercise included an announcement in Screen International (Cannes 2010 edition), a banner on the main strip “La Croisepte” located strategically at “Palais” which is the main screening arena for the festival films with around 20 screens and a casual evening with some sales agents and fraternity people toasting champagne & biting on canapés. The announcement coincided with “India Special Day” at Cannes on 15th may.

On the networking front, I and my expert colleagues had the privilege of gaining valuable inputs and contacts interacting with lot of key and important global film trade personalities including agents and buyers.

The Indian presence was visible in the form of NFDC, big banners like UTV, EROS, Reliance; the Indian Pavillion and popular bollywood personalities. The big red carpet announcement emerged from Shekhar Kapoor about his $150 million project “Paani”.

I noticed that countries like Japan and Russia are the big markets for Indian movies (including old movies) when it comes to redubbing and subtitling. Otherwise, Indian film industry is yet to make a mark in the global film trading markets. Perhaps the upside is the fact that the scope for film trade is immense for the new generation of “hungry” film makers.

I do look forward to a much more active presence at Cannes 2011 with couple of our independent film projects underway and express my gratitude to the whole production and creative team of “Bhindi Baazaar” spearheaded by the talented youngster Ankush Bhatt who is all set to debut as a hindi film director with this project.
 
 
 
Jun
25
By Karan // 2,039 Comments
 
In my inaugural blog, I had touched upon exploring untapped global film destinations which offer attractive incentives and support mechanism for film makers. In this regard, my recent trip to Fiji Islands and subsequent interaction with the key authorities did throw open an exciting business module for overall film making process personally for me and also for the ones who are strangers to this destination.
A quick brief about the place sitting pretty with 300 plus exotic islands. Fiji Islands, located in South Pacific, with some of the most idyllic beaches and islands in the world has attracted productions from the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan with top guns like Sony, Columbia, Dreamworks SKG, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount and Warner Brothers having pursued their dreams here. The Korean film industry also made its debut in Fiji last year with a movie titled “The Honeymoon,” shot in Nadi and Labasa islands.

For most of the year the weather is very pleasant, warm and sunny in Fiji with the cyclone season extending from November through to March.

Top foreign productions who have shot here include Tom Hanks starrer – Cast Away and Brooke Shields debut hit The Blue Lagoon, Boot Camp, Ananconda and many more popular movies, TV shows and documentaries.

What flummoxed me was the fact that Indian film fraternity has left this destination untouched. Interestingly, 40 per cent of Fiji’s population are Indian-origins who speak fluent English and Bhojpuri with the remaining 60 per cent locals being blacks/carribean.

So, was it the lack of awareness, initiative, distance factor or political instability which kept the Indian film makers away from such a juicy destination. Whatever may be the reason or concern, the current overall scenario has lot to offer as far my assessment is concerned.
 
Beginning with favourable climatic conditions, politically stable government, attractive incentives and production support and the recent commencement of Mumbai-Hong Kong- Fiji air route- all are loaded heavily in favour of creating the pull factor for the Indian film makers.

During our meeting, Ms Florence Swamy, Acting Chief Executive of the Fiji Audio Video Commission (FAVC), the body responsible for
administering tax incentives and providing “one stop shop for film production” impressed us with the statistics that a total of 19 productions were filmed in Fiji in 2009. These foreign productions apart from feature films included television commercials, documentaries and short films. She was quite optimistic that their government would generate an estimated $25 million of new economic activity in 2010.

To give her credit for her optimism, I also noticed that local television stations have created a pool of experienced cast and crew that have worked on feature films to reality television shows. Film makers will be relieved to know that cast and crew rates are reasonable and there are no union or guild problems. Additional crew can easily be sourced from Australia and New Zealand even as the FAVC is working parallely on developing more local talent to support the productions that come to Fiji.

Overriding all these factors is the incentive package. There are four main streams of audio visual tax incentives offered by the Fiji Government and administered by the Fiji Audio Visual Commission (FAVC) in collaboration with the Fiji Islands Revenue & Customs Authority (FIRCA).

Without getting into detailed guidelines and parameters, I would briefly summarise the film incentives. Those interested in seeking out the nitty gritties should contact the FAVC authorities or the ones who are interested in collaborative projects or turnkey consultancy can interact with Picture Partners.

The Fiji film Incentive package is broadly structured as:
• F1 and F2 Incentives
• The Film Tax Rebate
• The Studio City Zone and the Audio Visual Operating License (AVOL)/Audio Visual Incentives

1. Film Making Incentive
This is available to non-resident film companies only. The film company applies to the FAVC for a reduced rate or total exemption of tax on the income of its employees who are non residents and who are in Fiji for the purpose of conducting a film or television production. The benefit is not based on location spend and is available to non resident companies who intend to make a film in Fiji. In case, the production entity has chosen to use this scheme, it cannot obtain any other tax concessions and at the end of the film, audited accounts are required to be given to the FAVC and FIRCA.

2. F1 and F2 Incentives
The F1 or F2 Audio Visual Production (AVP) incentives are schemes whereby a production entity can raise production finance from Fiji tax payers. This allows Fiji tax payers to claim a tax deduction of either 125% (F2 AVP) or 150% (F1 AVP) against their tax liability, depending on the project’s ability to meet the qualifying guidelines.

The benefit is based on what is called “Qualifying Fiji Production Expenditure” or QFPE. This is otherwise known as “local spend” such as expenditures on local labour, local accommodation, the hire of local equipment etc.

The highlights of the scheme includes the fact that there is no stipulation on minimum percentage of film production activity in Fiji but 55 per cent of the total budget need to be spent in Fiji.

3. The Film Tax Rebate
The Film Tax Rebate is available for fully-funded productions whereby a production entity is eligible for a 35% tax rebate or cash subsidy (calculated on its qualifying production expenditure in Fiji) when it submits its income tax return at the end of the production. Once the Tax Department (FIRCA) has completed their own verification of the audited accounts, the FAVC will arrange for the release of the rebate payment from the Ministry of Finance. Barring any setbacks in the audit process, the processing of payment of rebate by the government should take approximately 6 – 8 weeks from the date of filing returns.

4. The Studio City Zone and the Audio Visual Operating License (Audio Visual Incentives)
This tax incentive is the tax exemption of audio visual income generated by a production entity (with an ‘audiovisual operating licence’) in a Studio City Zone (‘SCZ’) or Temporary Studio City Zone (‘TSCZ’). These zones are land and buildings in Fiji declared as a SCZ or TSCZ.

Currently, Fiji has two Temporary Studio City Zones; both of which are in Suva (Fiji’s capital). Under this incentive, the FAVC may grant a licence to a company or other entity wishing to operate from the Temporary Studio City Zone, which exempts it from paying tax on its Audio Visual earning, subject to its meeting certain conditions.

With the above incentive package, the challenge for the film makers is to create a production structure in line with the official parameters. Strategic financial planning aided by an attractive subsidy would go a long way in mitigating the project’s financial risk.

Even as I write this blog, my team is in throes of finalizing the first ever Bollywood (movie) project to be shot in Fiji aided by the film subsidy mechanism.

Until next time.
 
 

 
May
15
By Karan // 2,284 Comments
 
Having pondered over various styles and opening statements to embark on my first ever blog journey, let me dive in straight by welcoming the netizens and keen observers of media and entertainment domain to this blog which is a passionate attempt at sharing and interacting with you on topics and trends related to film financing, film production incentives, government grants, subsidies, tax shelter, film acquisitions and much more.

As the promoter of Picture Partners International and High Ground Enterprise Ltd (www.highground.in); companies engaged in
motion picture business in niche roles, my personal identity in this business stems originally from tapping the film consultancy vertical in the UK market with collaborative projects with film production houses from India, UK and Europe.

Beginning with film consultancy, five years ago, I along with my team, associates and clients have walked ahead adding other film related activities including independent film productions to my business. The aim is to achieve a 360 degree presence in the motion picture domain and television software both in India and global markets.

The idea to share and create an enriching platform germinated from the thought process that hundreds of new generation film professionals are hungry to explore and develop existing and new markets in film business. However, they face a handicap in terms of reach, understanding and resources to successfully execute their film projects and dreams.

The other part of the story is that film making with all its intricacies of funding and marketing is a specialized business and many creative professionals may not have that acumen. Even the ones who are capable of multitasking (creative and financial) are slowed down owing to time factor or lack of a customized business plan.

After gaining a credible foothold in UK/Indian market and making some strides in the established and emerging film markets, my future business spectrum is to discover, introduce and experiment with exciting new ideas and canvas in India and global entertainment space.

Simultaneously, through this blog, I would like to share my knowledge base and thought process with the film fraternity who are keen to discover and explore innovative and practical channels to finance and fund their movie projects.

This blog would aim at demystifying the global film funding process and also charter into hitherto unknown territories (especially from Indian perspective).

In my experience, while the global market spectrum for Indian movies spanning US, UK, Mauritius, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Germany plus more NRI-centric destinations have been growing over the years, the film incentive-led projects have been confined to mere couple of markets with UK, pockets of US and recently Singapore.

So, the question which is uppermost in the mind of every Indian and International film maker, investor or a production house is “How and Where do I Go to Produce a Movie with a reasonable Budget”.

While Hollywood managed to crack this code a long time ago and continues to explore further, Bollywood has only managed to patter here.

Sitting in my Soho Square office in London, I am strongly tempted to begin my blogging sojourn with the UK film incentive vertical but I would save that for my later blogs as I am more excited about sharing one of my latest discovery- The Fiji Islands- an absolute virgin market for the film fraternity, both in terms of location and attractive film rebates & incentives.

I along with my team had the pleasure of spending some wonderful and insightful moments recently with Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, one of the top most government authorities who apart from being the Attorney General & Minister for Justice heads other key ministries such as Tourism, Trade & Commerce and Anti-Corruption. Joining us was Mr Jitoko Tikolevu -CEO of Fiji Islands Revenue & Customs Authority (FIRCA) and Ms Florence Swamy, who is the acting head of Fiji Audio-Visual Commission (www.fijiaudiovisual.com)

The business agenda was to explore Fiji Islands as a financially attractive Film Destination. The Fiji Government not only welcomed us warmly promising the best possible support for our film-centric endeavors but were open to inputs on promoting this little piece of Paradise on Earth.

More details on the exciting tax rebate, incentive packages and other support components offered by Fiji Authorities for Film Makers in my next log.
 
 

 
May
13
By Karan // 2,225 Comments
 
Chief architect of HGEL 36-year old Karan Arora is a business prodigy whose expertise and vision in media & entertainment domain straddling Indo-UK markets originated with the launch of Stance Media & Entertainment way back in 1996. Post the launch of Stance Media in India, Karan moved to London in 2000 adding other high end and niche activities to his professional and entrepreneurial graph.

His professional foray into global marketplace honed his skills and knowledge base, initially in the role of Director of Photography, Production Designer and Creative Director. With the commencement of
Stance UK in 2004, he set-up a full fledged Post production facilities, alongside he also successfully played an active role in developing the hitherto unorganized niche film consultancy vertical in the UK and South Pacific; engaging in collaborative projects with film production houses from India, UK & Europe. The spectacular growth of Stance UK and his associate companies clocked a turnover of approx. USD 25 million during the financial year 2008-009.

Picture Partners is now the new specialised arm floated to focus on leveraging Global film production Incentives and Tax shelters to create lucrative and viable partnerships in the film business.

Karan’s vision as a first generation Indian Entrepreneur was exemplified with the nomination in the ‘Entrepreneur’ category for ‘The Lloyds TSB Jewel Awards’ (a premium UK Business award) for the year 2008 which recognizes Corporate, Commercial and Professional Excellence and is endorsed by the Prime Minister of UK, Gordon Brown (ref. www.jewelawards.tv). Karan was on the panel of judges for the British Graduate 100 awards 2010, the largest initiative of its kind developed in conjunction with Britain’s leading employers, universities and key industry figures. HGEL sponsored the Media, Film and Arts Awards of Graduate 100 (2010).

As the promoter of Picture Partners International (UK) and
High Ground Enterprise (India) his current goal is to make HGEL (India) “A niche Production House developing a platter of commercial & new age cinema by incorporating viable business & creative partnerships globally”
 
 

 
 
The British Graduate 100 Awards.

Producer Karan Arora of Highground Enterprise was among the esteemed panel of judges of British Graduate 100, 2010.

Highground Enterprise sponsored the category "MEDIA, FILM & ARTS" of Graduate 100.
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