Crowdfunding is not a new concept in India. We have a long tradition of raising funds for a cause, or no cause, in the name of charity. Religious institutions seek chanda (charitiable donations) to raise money for public events such as satsangs or even weddings and funerals. In urban spaces, the idea is now being largely extended to other community purposes such as cleaning up of neighbourhoods, repairing roads or even making films. Noted film director Shyam Benegal has done it and many others are following suit.
A remarkable example of crowdfunding has recently come to light in a village in Haryana’s Sirsa district where people have raised funds to the tune of 1 crore for construction of a 250 feet high and 14 feet wide bridge over the Ghaggar river. The bridge is expected to connect Akila and Panihari villages. For two decades, local politicians fooled the villagers with false promises regarding the construction of the bridge. Finally the exasperated villagers, refusing to be taken for a ride again, took the onus upon themselves. They do not even want a politician for the inauguration of the bridge.
Crowdfunding is the practice of generating revenue for a project or venture by inviting monetary contributions from people. It is being extensively carried out on the internet, especially since the 2008 economic slowdown in the US. Film producers, musicians and investors turned to crowdfunding to raise money for projects. Kickstarter claims to be the world’s largest crowdfunding platform for creative projects ranging from films, music, art, theatre, games, comics, design, photography and more. By 2014, Kickstarter had raised over $1bn catering to around 200,000 people and a variety of projects. It has become a platform for young artists to nurture their talent when they can’t afford to do so.
‘I have stopped crowd funding for my films after I Am’ – Onir, Director
How did you do crowdfunding for your film?
When I decided to make I Am, there were no crowdfunding websites in India. I raised money through email and social media sites, Facebook and Twitter. Around 400 people came forward to support the project. The film belongs to everybody who supported it.
What challenges did you face in crowdfunding your projects?
In India, people think donations are only meant for poor and needy people. In other countries, it isn’t like that. They believe in crowdfunding art and entertainment. It’s not very easy to get people to fund a film in India. For I Am crowdfunding was unavoidable. Because of a shortage of funds we had to club four different stories into one. Here, it is easier to raise funds for documentaries through crowdfunding but not films. Art films are not given as much importance here as they get abroad.
Does crowdfunding benefit independent filmmakers?
In India, the trend is catching up with many directors. Till now, it was used for anything but films.
Do you plan to raise funds for future projects through crowdfunding?
No, I have stopped crowdfunding for my films after I Am. As I said earlier, it is a difficult task in India.
Recently, the Centre announced a cut of nearly 20 percent in its 2014-15 healthcare budget toning it down from 352 billion to 297 billion. In the wake of the rising concerns over money crunch in the health sector and the loot by private hospitals, Raghuram Kote, a resident of Bengaluru, has set up a crowdfunded organisation, Right to Live, the first of its kind in the country. The organisation claims to have saved several lives by extending monetary assistance to those who cannot afford expensive medical treatment.
So far, the organisation has raised nearly 2 crore to support 51 people for cancer treatment, cardiac surgery, kidney transplant, bone-marrow transplant and open heart surgery. To raise funds, the patient’s identity along with details of ailment and economic condition are posted on the website urging people to donate. The website vows to ‘reach out to every ailing human being deprived of rightful treatment due to financial constraints’. “We assess the economic condition of the person and then post all details on our website,” says Right To Live director Raghuram Kote. “We also mention the cost of treatment and the time required. The unique thing about Right to Live is that the entire amount received in donation is spent on the patient’s treatment by the organisation rather than handing it over to them.” Kote adds, “The government does not have the panacea for all our ills. As far as Bengaluru is concerned, people from middle and upper class are willing to donate. They are eager to extend a helping hand which is why our campaign is successful here. A measly sum of 250, if donated by lakhs of people in this city every month would suffice for the treatment of so many poor patients.”