The Assam Advantage

The Assam government is going all out to woo Hindi filmmakers to shoot films in their state 

7

As part of his ambitious ‘Advantage Assam’ outreach, the Chief Minister of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal, led a high-level delegation that met with a cross-section of the Hindi film fraternity at a suburban hotel in Mumbai on November 30th.

The objective of the exercise was to personally take the film industry through the Assam Film Tourism Policy that will come into force on January 1, 2018, and have a meaningful interaction to take on board the film industry’s recommendations and suggestions on the same.

The state’s new Film Tourism Policy features a host of proposals to incentivise Hindi filmmakers to explore Assam as a shooting location, and to also attract investments towards building a Film City in the state. See box.

Kicking off the session, Chief Minister Sonowal extended a warm welcome to the Hindi film industry to explore Assam as a shooting destination He also promised them his administration’s unstinting support. Striking a personal note, he pointed out that he himself had learnt Hindi by watching Hindi films! Hindi films are much loved and respected in Assam and the North East, he said, and it was unfortunate that the region had hardly been featured in Hindi cinema, despite being blessed with great scenic beauty. 

1Besides the chief minister, the Assam government was represented by a senior and multi-disciplinary panel of officials, including: Chief Secretary, V K Piparsenia; Additional Secretary, Ravi Capoor; Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Ramesh Jain; Chairman of Assam Tourism, Jayanta Malla Buzarbaruah; Vice-Chairman of Assam Tourism, Navadeep Kalita; Managing Director of Assam Tourism Development Corporation, Kausar Hilaly; and Official Representative of the Assam Film Tourism Policy, Shahnaab Alam.

From the film fraternity, the interaction was attended by Subhash Ghai, Manmohan Shetty, Jhanu Barua, Hansal Mehta, Manish Goswami, Rahul Rawail, Kulmeet Makkar, Dipti Jindal, Sandeep Bhargav and Sunil Agarwal.

While wholeheartedly welcoming the Assam government’s initiative and thanking the chief minister for the same, the film industry representatives also put forth some pertinent suggestions and observations in the course of what was a very candid and cordial interaction.

Some of the film industry’s key suggestions were:

The need to establish a permanent Film Commission so that policy implementation would not be affected by a change of personnel in the course of bureaucratic reshuffles

An incentive of Rs 1 crore by itself will not be a major factor for producers to decide to shoot in Assam, especially for big-budget films, where Rs 1 crore was a mere fraction of the total outlay

Even more important than the financial incentive was the need to have film friendly infrastructure in Assam, particularly in terms of proper accommodation, smooth transport and logistics, and access to relevant equipment and manpower

There was a common concern, at least in Mumbai, about the security situation in Assam. That perception needs to be corrected

Many other states too have tried to promote creation of film cities in their regions without getting any substantial benefit. Therefore, the focus of the government should be inclined more towards addressing the other issues raised during the meeting rather than building a film city  

8Chief Minister Sonowal and his team were very receptive to all the points raised by the delegation and assured them that their suggestions would be taken on board.

With regard to the security situation, as also the immense cinematic possibilities of Assam’s natural beauty, the chief minister extended an open invitation to the delegation to visit his state and experience its wonders – as also its now normal security situation – for themselves.

 

 

REGULATORY POLICY INITIATIVE

INCENTIVES FOR FILM PRODUCERS

  • Financial grant of 25 per cent of cost incurred in Assam to Hindi / English / foreign language cinema makers who have produced minimum five feature films with a country-wide audience and minimum 25 per cent of the entire shooting of the feature film in Assam subject to a maximum limit of Rs 100 lakh
  • Additional rebate of 10 per cent on QPF for films having a storyline on Assam’s culture/ tourism/ heritage
  • Additional rebate of 10 per cent on QPE for shooting more than 50 per cent of the entire shooting in Assam
  • Producers who have produced a minimum 10 films in Hindi/English/ foreign languages will be provided free accommodation and transport for their important cast during the period of stay for shooting of films in Assam

INCENTIVES FOR FILM CITY

  • A new tourist unit which commences its commercial operations during the validity of this policy with a minimum investment of Rs 100 lakh in the Tourism locations, will be entitled to reimbursement of 50 per cent of net SGST paid for a period of 10 years from the date of such commercial operation, subject to a maximum 100 per cent of fixed capital investment
  • A capital investment subsidy at the rate of 30 per cent of capital investment subject to a ceiling of Rs 1 crore will be available for tourist lodges, hotels, resorts, houseboats and floating restaurants in tourism locations
  • 25 per cent of the cost payable to Assam state power Distribution Company (APDCL) for drawing of power line to the eligible units including the cost of transformer subject to a ceiling of Rs 10 lakh
  • 75 per cent of the cost of construction of approach road to the premises of eligible units will be reimbursed in the form of a subsidy, subject to a ceiling of Rs 10 lakh
  • Additional 10 per cent capital grant upto Rs 25 lakh for investment in remote/ potential tourist destinations of Assam
  • For private properties in the Tourism sector, both existing and new, 25 per cent of investment on renewable sources of energy will be reimbursed subject to a maximum of Rs 10 lakh

EXCLUSIVE

Managing Director of Assam Tourism Development Corporation, Kausar Hilaly, on the follow-up decisions, post the meeting:

KAILALAY

“The interaction aimed at seeking to inform film industry leaders and solicit inputs from them about the newly unveiled film tourism policy. The suggestions from stalwarts like Subhash Ghai, Manmohan Shetty and Kulmeet Makkar were taken seriously; to the extent that the government has taken an in-principle decision to constitute a Film Commission at the earliest. The government is also seriously contemplating facilitating the setting up of post-production houses and film institutes in the state. The film policy is expected to be reviewed to include all formats and platforms so that it becomes attractive to filmmakers of all genres to shoot in Assam. In order to change the perception in the film industry about the law and order scenario, it has been decided to specifically talk in the entertainment media about how peaceful and hospitable Assam currently is.”

– By Sanghamitra Gogoi

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