Shooting films in India is tough, mainly because of the bureaucratic nature of the government in granting permissions. There are some happy exceptions, though. Bhopal and some other cities in Madhya Pradesh are possibly the best places to shoot. At times, producers have got permissions from the agencies concerned in real time.
From the chief minister’s office down the line, every department is coordinated and cooperative. But in places like Jaisalmer in Rajasthan and other border areas, the process takes up to seven to 15 days. Due to security concerns, applications need clearance from six different departments.
That is why one needs a good line producer who can make your job easy when it comes to securing permissions from government bodies. In places where shoots frequently take place, line producers are experts and are real handy as they know exactly how to deal with thorny issues.
Yet, a lot needs to be done in this regard. Provisions like one-window clearance and tatkal clearance would be hugely helpful while we need to make transporting equipment from one state to another hassle-free at all check posts.
But to achieve this, state governments must recognise filmmaking as a serious business, like foreign governments do, and formulate policies in this regard. The government departments and agencies concerned must look upon this as their responsibility rather than a burden or additional work.
A few states like UP and Haryana have made some strides in this direction as they have started formulating policies for films. Hopefully, other states will follow suit.
Highway, Rockstar, Tamasha
Our industry definitely faces a lot of issues and one of the major issues is the location hunt, especially within India. Our industry is based in Mumbai and it’s the most difficult place to shoot. First, you need so many permissions from so many departments for every location. In getting those permissions, corruption is the major problem we face. Then come the corrupt worker unions in cities like Mumbai and Chennai. The bigger the city, the more problems we face.
Though some states say they give rebates, there is no proper rebate structure. This is not the case in European countries. When you shoot abroad, your money comes back to you.
There is the other side too – the advantages of shooting in India. You can control the budget. The control remains in your hands rather than with the local line producer. Also, labour is cheap, and you can shoot big crowd scenes only in India because extras cost far too much abroad.
Many countries provide rebates to promote tourism to their country, whereas we still don’t have a proper Film Commission. Films have a great impact on the human psyche, and after watching a film they like, a lot of people want to visit the country or state shown in it. So the tourism of India and its states could be increased if tourism departments helped film people shoot.
Instead, there is no proper infrastructure to reach and shoot in some of the most beautiful parts of India, like Arunachal Pradesh and the rest of the north-east or the interiors of Himachal Pradesh. The corruption in government departments makes it more difficult to shoot in these locations.
We were shooting for Highway in Aru Valley and Kaza, and it was very challenging. You can’t think of going there with big stars because of the lack of infrastructure. And yet the locations are so beautiful that you wonder why we go abroad and spend so much, when we have this in India.
All state governments should appoint a one-point contact person for filmmakers. State governments should promote untouched, beautiful areas for filmmaking by offering financial or infrastructural support, which will eventually help boost tourism of their state.
Film people also need to stop paying for permissions. We need to come together, set up a system and follow it in order to make things easier.
Till the late ’80s and early ‘90s, movies were shot mainly indoors—on sets and studio floors with the exception of only certain action sequences…chases and some dance numbers. However, in recent times, with a sea change in the Indian viewer’s choices and appetite for new and different content, cinema has become realistic, believable and relatable.
Naturally, this means studio floors and sets are giving way to real and live locations and this means capturing the atmosphere of the shoot as it occurs. During the shoot of Shootout At Wadala, in a lane in Dongri in Mumbai, at 3 am, Anil Kapoor, John Abraham, Manoj Bajpayee and Sonu Sood shot a scene with rabble-rousing lines packed with heavy action sequences. The added thrill was that all this took place in front of thousands of people, making it one of the most memorable sequences from the film.
Security, however, remains the biggest challenge of shooting in real locations. While the local police, the stars’ bodyguards and security guards hired by the film crew provide a security ring, there is an urgent need for a holistic security system that can help producers and directors work at actual locations.
During the shooting of Te3n, while shooting on the roads of Kolkata with Mr Bachchan, thousands of fans filled the streets. Although the Kolkata police did a great job of maintaining law and order during the guerrilla shooting, a more organised state security system, more sensitive to film shootings, would have been great.
While shooting in India can get cumbersome at times, due to various permissions and approvals required from various departments, the need of the hour is a single-window clearance mechanism at the state level. States like UP and Gujarat are trying to move to a one-stop clearance model and states like UP, Bihar and a few others are offering subsidies, which makes shooting there cost effective.
Mumbai, the hub of the film business, has become pretty expensive to shoot in, with roads, railways and other authorities requiring permissions that make the whole process very time consuming. Various associations’ rules and regulations also make it extremely difficult to shoot in this city.
The US is leading many countries in creating an efficient system, where the Film Commission office is a single-window clearance body that ensures permissions at all levels, across all the states, making the entire shooting experience easy, breezy and memorable.
What is encouraging is that the Film Commission is trying to create a similar set-up in India, of a one-window clearance system, which will interact with all the states in India and facilitate the film shooting process. For this to work smoothly, the process needs to be simple and the time frame needs to be reasonable. This will not only give an impetus to the local film industry but also attract a lot of international productions and incentivise them to shoot in India.
Columbia Pictures’ film Eat Pray Love was shot in India for almost two weeks and is considered one of the best experiences for the crew. More and more international productions can consider shooting here if the authorities rise to the challenge and ensure no delays and offer all the help that a film crew needs.
“Most of my presumptions about a production are usually wrong” – Steven Spielberg
No qualifications can prepare anyone completely for this hugely demanding role. You could have prepared to the best of your ability, but even a minor oversight can have mammoth repercussions.
While the core responsibility of production is budgeting, scheduling, planning and ensuring that the director’s requirements and vision are met with, the most crucial yet underrated attribute of a competent production is discipline. Discipline in shooting, being cost conscious and tracking daily cost reports is extremely important because overspending has direct implications on the feasibility of
I often compare film production to a family wedding, only this one runs for months together and even the minutest of errors cannot be overlooked. It’s not easy to keep 300-400 people delivering to the best of their capability, day after day. You always need a plan for the worst case scenario, while simultaneously being able to inspire others to excel in their work.
However, the toughest skill that production requires is the diplomacy to balance the creative expectations of the director, artists and creative personnel with the financial resources available.
Film production is anything but an easy task, and there are innumerable hurdles that an able production has to overcome in order to deliver quality work.
Unlike other countries, India lacks a unified body like a Film Commission that will facilitate production activities and streamline communication on behalf of the producer with various authorities.
While countries all over the world are evolving to creating a production-friendly environment with monetary benefits, we too need to have a wider rebate/subsidy system in place for each state, to encourage more producers to shoot in India.
However, in spite of so many challenges and sometimes not-so-favourable conditions, every film production gives unparalleled satisfaction. Delivering a film is as gratifying and ecstatic as delivering a newborn baby that has gone through a nine-month gestation period, from conceptualisation to its eventual realisation.