May 10, 2013

West Bengal chit fund scam hits the state's film industry

Priyanka Gupta, CNN-IBN | Updated Apr 29, 2013 at 08:45am IST

Kolkata: The West Bengal chit fund is getting bigger each day. It has now turns out that ponzi schemes in the state financed not just media houses but Tollywood films as well. In the past four years, at least one in three films has been produced by groups that run ponzi schemes.

Rose Valley, a deposit-taking company which is now under the MCA scanner, has produced 18 films including three National Award-winning ones. The Prayag group of companies, also under probe, is building a film city with none other than Shah Rukh Khan as its brand ambassador. But the industry is worried at what it sees as a mere brand-building exercise by the chit funds.

Arijit Dutta, former President of Eastern India Motion Pictures Association, said, "There are about 18 chit fund companies which have shown interest in producing films or have produced films." Filmmaker Sumon Mukherjee said, "They have no background in cinema, no understanding, no concern about the future of cinema. They just have some loose money, illegal money coming in and they want to use it."

Rahul Mukherjee, a first time director is now scrambling for producers to finance his film. His producer, a chit fund company, deserted the project and went hiding after the crackdown on the Saradha group. "80 per cent of the film is done, but now we cannot complete it without funds. So it has stopped," Rahul said.

Projects have been shelved and releases have been postponed. With no state funding and an unregulated market with a lot of grey areas, the film industry is caught between a rock and a hard place. Filmmaker Q said, "It's all right for us to say we need a clean source of funding but how? At the end of the day a director wants to make a film."

The Bengali film industry, which has seen an unprecedented increase in terms of sheer volume of films produced and released because of the fresh flow of funds, has suffered a setback. But many of the industry insiders believe that this setback was perhaps necessary to purge the industry of illegal money. 

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