The Path to Connectment

Connectment Films is the evolution of Connect Magazine which was co-founded by Nyay Bhushan, Niket Bhushan, Namrata B Durgan and Niyam Bhushan in November 1990. In the spirit of today’s startup culture, Connect launched as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in the form of a photocopied, stapled magazine designed on Apple Macintosh computers. Billed as India’s first magazine on global entertainment, Connect anticipated the tectonic cultural shifts that ended up defining the Nineties, just months before satellite television signals began beaming into India starting with CNN’s coverage of the Gulf War in 1991. The resulting explosion of entertainment channels coupled with the consumer boom fanned by the arrival of multi-national brands – thanks to India’s economic liberalization policies launched in 1991 – reinforced Connect’s vision of offering a unique Indian perspective on this paradigm shift in culture and lifestyle trends.

Because it could not be launched as a YouTube channel in 1990, Connect had to go the analog way until the times caught up.

Connect introduced a disruptive and innovative distribution model to the staid and tightly controlled magazine distribution business. The launch issue bypassed news stands and was placed directly in video libraries and gift stores in Delhi. The instant acceptance by early adopters resulted in the brand going viral, so to speak, and eventually went nationwide via traditional distribution outlets. It goes without saying that the Nineties are considered India’s defining decade in which the country began to seek a new identity in the age of globalization. This was reflected in Connect’s updated brand mantra: ‘India’s Voice in the Global Village’.

The biggest impact was in how a new entertainment culture was being consumed by a generation which was opening up to the world. A defining moment occurred in 1993 when Jurassic Park became a major hit as the first Hollywood film to get the widest release at the time with 120 prints which was also dubbed in Hindi, another first.

Today, its par for the course for major Hollywood films to be dubbed in multiple languages and get almost as wide a theatrical release as any local film. If you are worried about “cultural invasion”, relax. India is still one of the few markets where Hollywood films only garner a minority market share at the box office, roughly estimated at about 15 percent, though this figure has more than doubled since the Nineties. However, on the corporate front, sectors such as streaming and satellite television – especially sports broadcasting – are dominated by Hollywood conglomerates but that’s another story, best discussed over a power lunch.

Steven Spielberg was voted Entertainer of the Year in Connect’s 1993 annual reader’s poll. So of course, Connect had to reach out to Spielberg for a message. And this is what he shared:

My warmest thanks to the readers of Connect for choosing me as Entertainer of the Year. I am especially thrilled about this, because ‘Jurassic Park’ marked the first time one of my films was able to reach the vast Indian public. I am told that audiences all over the country reached to it with great enthusiasm, and I find that truly gratifying.

Steven Spielberg

As part of its innovative approach in communicating the growing entertainment revolution of the decade, in 1995 Connect pioneered a unique collector’s issue which was packed with a specially curated audio cassette presented in association with MTV, Coca-Cola and HMV/EMI Records. The cassette featured 10 full length songs – the first time such a cassette was packed with any Indian magazine – featuring introduction links by MTV VJ Rahul Khanna who was the host of the popular request show MTV Most Wanted. Incorporating ground-breaking graphic design utilizing Adobe Photoshop, the issue was entirely sponsored by Panasonic as an extension of the Japanese giant’s launch campaign in India.

Connect pioneered a new aesthetic in graphic design, typography and photo transformation under the direction of Niyam Bhushan who went on to found his consultancy Digital Dionysus and partnering on Narrativ Design.

Connect marketing brochure design:

In addition to its innovative graphic design, Connect won over a loyal following for its famous back page column authored by Niyam Bhushan.

Then came another seismic shift. The Internet. And suddenly the word ‘connect’ took on a new connotation. As dial-up modems began to crackle and hiss, the infobahn was being paved. And Connect hit the cyber highway in 1995, becoming the first Indian print magazine to launch a website, foreseeing that the future was in binary ones and zeros.
Soon after, Connect was included in the 1996 book Film & Video on the Internet: The Top 500 Sites.

The latter half of the Nineties saw Connect migrating fully to digital, bidding adieu to the analog world, building on its credo of offering an Indian voice in cyberia – it was a cool word back then. You can still see an excerpt of the original website on the Way Back Machine.

In 1996, Connect was featured on the popular Amul India Show hosted by Sanjna Kapoor on Star TV.

Behind the scenes filming the ‘Amul India Show’

In its online avatar, Connect continued to push the boundaries of digital imagery.

Considering the Connect website was uniquely positioned in how it was offering a new take on global culture from India, its content ended up attracting some international attention.

This led to Nyay Bhushan becoming the first India correspondent for both The Hollywood Reporter (from 1999-2020) and Billboard (from 1997-2008). Connect was also featured in the comprehensive book Trade Secrets by author and broadcaster Cynthia Rose, published by Thames & Hudson in 1999, which looked at the explosion of young British talent in the 1990s. The book featured Connect’s detailed interview with UK Indian producer Bally Sagoo who was among the trailblazers of the New Asian Kool, melding the sounds of east and west.

As the new millennium rolled in, ‘content’ became the new cool word. And yes, Connect was ready to morph into a new avatar – Connectment Films – just as digital democratization began to impact film-making. If Connect was about the world coming to India, Connectment is about India going to the world.

The Connectment Experience was created in 2002 as an audio visual statement presenting insights from various personalities on how east and west started to connect at the dawn of the new millennium.

The project featured inputs from a wide range of artists and creators based on interviews conducted between 1990-2002 and included: Peter Gabriel, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Heinrich Harrer, Rahul Khanna, Meera Syal, Ian Anderson, Talvin Singh, Nitin Sawhney, Ashutosh Gowariker, Riz Khan, Salman Ahmad, Bally Sagoo, Truth Hurts, Anita Pratap, Natasha Magoo, Alessandra and Monika Deol.

As an extension of its filmic endeavors, Connectment also diversified into photography from 2009 onwards, just as digital cameras began to democratize photography.

This saw Nyay Bhushan’s varied art photo series receiving over 30 honors at the International Photography Awards (IPA), Prix de la Photographie Paris (PX3) and the Photography Masters Cup.

Connectment then presented an Indian perspective on global platform Filmaka with its short films – Backdrop, The Saint, Stuck in Inner Traffic and Mango Shake.

Filmaka was founded in 2007, spearheaded by LA-based producer Deepak Nayar whose various credits include Bend it Like Beckham, Buena Vista Social Club and Netflix series Sense8, among others. With its motto of ‘Connect, Collaborate, Compete’, Filmaka pioneered its global digital platform to offer film-makers worldwide a democratic opportunity to showcase their talents via regular thematic contests. Connectment’s short films were among the first from India to be featured on Filmaka. They were also showcased on the inaugural online Bandra Film Festival in 2021 via its YouTube channel. Organized by FilmKaravan, BFF’s focus is to provide a unique platform to new artists and innovative content creators while unearthing hidden gems from prolific filmmakers.

As cinema possibly undergoes its most dramatic shift, thanks to streaming, the future is again unpredictable, yet exciting.
And Connectment Films has a mantra for the road ahead: Connect with content that gives you contentment.