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Sindhi Film Industry needs Community and State Patronage

Sindhi Film Industry needs Community and State Patronage
Naresh Udhani

Unlike Bollywood, we produce a film with a minimum budget ranging between 2.5 to 3.5 million rupees but have to sustain huge losses due to the indifferent attitude of Sindhi community.

[Naresh Udhani is a Film Writer, Lyricist, Producer and Director based in Ahmedabad city of Gujarat state in India. Naresh, whose ancestors belonged to Naseerabad, district Larkana Sindh, has directed five Sindhi movies and the 6th one is going to be released by end of this year. He is also producer of two earlier movies and one to be released soon. In a conversation with Sindh Courier through voice messages, Naresh talked about a host of issues faced by Sindhi film industry in India – Nasir Aijaz, Editor]

Naresh-Udhani-Sindhi-Movies-Sindh-Courier-2Big Sindhi Investors Do Not Put Their Money Into Sindhi Film Industry

Q- Abana was the first Sindhi movie produced in India in 1958. How many Sindhi movies have been produced since then and what is the overall situation of Sindhi film industry in India?

A- Yes Abana was the first Sindhi movie produced in India after partition in 1958. But hardly 12 to 15 Sindhi movies could be made till 1984-85. Again four to five movies were produced till 2007-08. My first Sindhi movie Maasoom (Innocent) was released in 2009 and was like the revival of Sindhi film industry as some 35 movies have so far been released during this brief period of 13 years.

Naresh-Udhani-Sindhi-Movies-Sindh-Courier-11Q- It is good to know about the revival of Sindhi film industry. But isn’t it strange that Sindhi financers have made heavy investments in Bollywood but neglected the Sindhi film industry?

A- We Sindhis in India are scattered in different cities except certain pockets in a few cities. It’s one of the major reasons that Sindhi movies failed to make any return. All of my five movies made so far went into loss, but even then I have produced my sixth movie.

Actually, people like me, who have spirit of Sindhyat, have continued making investments in Sindhi movies. ‘Aseen jeki Sindhyat ja deewana ahyun, Uhe ee Sindhi film thahiyun tha’.

Naresh-Udhani-Sindhi-Movies-Sindh-Courier-3Those making huge investments of hundreds of millions in Hindi movies of Bollywood are in fact commercial and professional investors who also earn huge profits. They have neither focused on Sindhi movies nor will do in future. Why would they invest on Sindhi movies knowing that it will cause them nothing but loss?

We are making a movie by investing hardly 2.5 million to 3 or 3.5 million rupees and even then a film earns not more than one million or one and half a million. We have to sustain such a big loss on each movie.

Q- I can realize the issues faced by you, as Sindhis are scattered in different cities of India and their population is not enough to throng to a cinema. In such a situation, do the cinemas accept Sindhi movies for screening?

A- Yes Saeen we also face hardships in this regard. We have to implore the theater owners for screening of our movies. They make us bound to pay for all the tickets if the movie fails to attract the spectators and the tickets are not sold.

Naresh-Udhani-Sindhi-Movies-Sindh-Courier-4Q- What kind of topics are selected for Sindhi movies? I have been watching these movies on YouTube and found that mostly comedy or romantic or mixed movies are produced.

A- Your observation is correct. The movies produced here are often a mixture of comedy, romance, and social issues with the addition of songs and emotional dialogues.  Mr. Mohan, a Nagpur-based producer, makes only comedy movies.

Naresh-Udhani-Sindhi-Movies-Sindh-Courier-5Q- Have you or any other Sindhi film producer held exhibition of movies outside India to widen the market. There are lots of Sindhis in Dubai and other countries around the world?

A- Yes, beside India, my movies have been exhibited in Canada, Hong Kong and Nigeria. Two Sindhi movies were also screened in Dubai as producer Satish Changani himself is based in Dubai.

Naresh-Udhani-Sindhi-Movies-Sindh-Courier-7Q- For the same purpose, I mean for capturing the market, have Sindhi film producers ever tried to exhibit their movies with subtitles in English and other languages or dubbing in different languages?

A- So far no Sindhi movie has been dubbed in any of other languages in India. But I think it is easy to release Sindhi movies with English subtitles.

Q- I learnt through one of your interviews on YouTube that Sindhi movies are screened in hardly a dozen cities. For example you had released your movie Nazuk Rishto in about 12 cities. What had been the response by Sindhis. Was there a great rush of people to watch the new movie, as had been for Bollywood movies or even in Sindh a large number of people watched Sindhi movies in the past?

A- The situation in India is different from Sindh, as I told that Sindhis are scattered community. Moreover, the times have changed a lot. In the past, when the movies were made in print, no movie could be released in several cinemas simultaneously. But now the advanced technology has made it possible to release a move in more than ten thousand theaters at a time. Gone are the days when the movie lovers used to get their seats booked standing in queues.

I must share that my movie Vardaan was released in thirteen cities while Nazuk Rishto was released in eleven cities at a time.

Best Film Director Award received by Naresh Udhani from an organization of Hyderabad Sindh

As regards the response from Sindhis, I would not hesitate to share that on an average, it is not encouraging. Yes but as far as my movies are concerned, people used to buy tickets to watch the movie.

You would be surprised to know that Sindh producers or directors have to arrange any sponsor for screening of their movies – some well off persons or organizations.

Most of the producers/directors often release their movies in one city and then move to others, but it was my two movies that were screened in around a dozen cities at the same time.

Q- Have you ever thought of or taken any practical step to produce a Sindh movie of international level casting the renowned actors, with the help of big investors?

A- A Sindhi movie ‘Piyar Kare Dis’ released in 2009, was co-production of a Mumbai-based producer Kumal Nathani and another from Dubai or Singapore. A huge investment was made by engaging renowned actors, singers and getting composed songs etc. but the result was zero. Hardly 20 shows could be held of this movie. Spend tens of millions or two to three millions – huge loss is sure. And for that reason, every producer tries to make a film with a minimum budget and ensure maximum screening.

My 6th movie Vardan-2 has been co-financed by Mr. Mohan K Soni from Latin American country Chile while the associate producer is Mr. Ajeet Khairpuri from Hong Kong. This became possible only because my movies became popular through social media.

In my view, based on my experience, a blockbuster movie doesn’t require a big cast and popular actors. It needs a good story, screenplay, dialogues as well as the direction. The actors may be new and unknown but if their performance is powerful, they would make a film blockbuster. So we here focus on these things instead of big cast and investment.

Vardaan-2, Naresh Udhani’s 6th movie to be released by end of current year.

Q- Share something about your six movies you have produced so far, and any new venture?

A- My first movie Maasoom, produced and directed by me, released in 2009, was based on a story of a Thalassemia patient. Second movie Qarz, also produced and directed by me, was themed on spoiled youth who get involved in seeking loans. It was released in 2011. My 3rd movie as director – Piyar Ja Rang was released in 2013. It was themed against the social evil of unmarried couples’living together, as in our Sindhi society does not accept it being disastrous for the families. Vardaan, the most successful movie was released in 2016. It touched on the important topic of educating the daughters. For this movie, I was declared as Best Director by an organization based in Hyderabad Sindh. The 5th movie – Nazuk Rishto, was released in 2019. It highlighted how delicate are the matrimonial relations.

Pyar Jaa Rang was produced by Kodu Rawlani, Vardaan by Rajesh C. Lalchandani and Naazuk Rishto by Chander Sawnani.

The 6th movie is Vardaan-2, which will be released by the end of this year.

Naresh-Udhani-Sindhi-Movies-Sindh-Courier-12Q- You earlier talked about revival of Sindhi film industry, which in fact is not up to the expectations. What do you think how the Sindhi film industry could progress, as it would not only promote Sindhi language and culture but also create opportunities for a large number of Sindhis to show their talent?

A- If we want to ensure the success of Sindhi movies, we must focus on the selection of powerful stories, dialogues, lyrics, music as well as the direction and picturization. But at the same time we need the patronage of Sindhis, as promotion of Sindhi language, culture and revival of Sindhi film industry depends on the success of movies. Moreover, organizations like Sahitia Academy and Sindhi Language Council should also come forward to patronize Sindhi movies, the same way they extend financial help for publishing the books. The governments in other states financially help the movies of their respective languages but since the Sindhis have no state of their own, we direly need financial support by these organizations.

Watch Video: Naresh Udhani speaks at All India Sindhi Academic Conference 

Q- My last question is about your ancestors and your personal life.  

A- My ancestors migrated from Naseerabad, Larkana Sindh in 1947 and settled in Ahmedabad. I was born in Ahmedabad in 1969 I am the youngest of four brothers and five sisters- that is 9th and last child of my parents. We are wholesale cloth merchants like our ancestors, and have shops in Sindhi market of Ahmedabad.

I graduated in commerce but I was interested in writing stories and poems from a young age. So far I have written lyrics for about 19 films. I write stories, lyrics and dialogue for my movies.