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A Beautiful India

With a canvas as diverse and captivating as India, it’s sad that local governments make it so very difficult for filmmakers to shoot their films. Perhaps if we got together and raised our voice, this could change

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Saare jahan se achcha, Hindustan hamara is what we learnt in school and we all know that India is one of the most beautiful countries in this world. Over the years, filmmakers have shot in various parts of India. It is often said that we filmmakers have not yet done justice to our country and haven’t showcased all that India has to offer.

However, there’s a catch. Most filmmakers shy away from shooting in India and prefer to shoot abroad. The question is, why do they want to flee when we have such a large and diverse canvas to explore? It is often argued that it’s very easy to shoot in other countries. Another argument is that each state government should recognise filmmaking as a serious business, which is how it is viewed abroad. Since it is regarded as any other business, the authorities provide facilities to a filmmaker who decides to shoot in their country. Things are much more organised on foreign shores than they are back home.

Some filmmakers have used their creativity to get around the problems on home ground. For instance, Rohit Shetty has used Goa as a backdrop for many of his films but every time you watch a film of his, you see a new Goa. Even though he’s made several movies and many other filmmakers have frequently shot in Goa, Shetty has proved that there’s so much more of Goa left to be shown. And that’s only one of the many states we have in India.

On the other hand, there’s Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who is known to create really large sets. One wonders whether he would change that if shooting permissions and facilities were to improve in India. Would he prefer to shoot at actual locations instead? For his next film Padmavati, he’s booked the biggest ground available at Film City, for almost a year. It suggests that one of our biggest filmmakers doesn’t want to go through any trauma and would rather shoot on a set so that he can work in peace.

Another reason filmmakers shoot overseas are for the rebates offered. It’s a bait to lure filmmakers to showcase their country through their films, which in turn would boost tourism. We have states in our country like Uttar Pradesh, Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, which have understood the power of tourism. Likewise, if we had more states coming forward, it would be a win-win situation for filmmakers and states too.

Apart from apathetic state governments, there are other problems that film units encounter while shooting in India. It’s a constant struggle for an executive producer, who handles the movie. He is constantly running from pillar to post for permissions. In contrast, abroad, there are simple rules, transparent producers and single-window clearance, which is not the case in India.

For our seventh anniversary issue, in this section, Box Office India has given a platform to the professionals who make a filmmaker’s vision come true. They are the people who arrange everything for a shoot, from scouting locations, to getting permissions. If we work towards the issues discussed in these pages, perhaps there’s a chance we could make shooting in India more pleasure and less pain.

Let’s hope better sense prevails and we show the world Saare jahaan se achcha Hindustan hamara. Read on:

vivek-b-agrawal-2Vivek Agarwal,Head of Operations, Phantom Films Pvt Ltd

Wondering how easy or tough it is to shoot in India compared to overseas is a no-brainer. It is far simpler to set up a shoot in, say, London or New York while sitting in Mumbai than in, say, Rajasthan! This is primarily due to the clear-cut rules and regulations that are laid out by local authorities in other countries. They are easy to follow and simple to execute. Very little is left ambiguous when applying for permissions to public locations abroad, whereas in India, even after taking all the necessary permissions, we are constantly worried that some authority will stop our shoot for not complying with ‘ambiguous’ rules that we were not aware of.

To solve this problem, standard and clear processes should be laid out in each state – similar to each other – so that producers don’t have to re-orient themselves to every state. Local government bodies should have a standard system for permissions across the country so that producers are well acquainted with the process to follow and are not fleeced unknowingly.

For instance, to shoot at the Gateway of India in Mumbai, producers have to take permission from the following authorities:

1.Police

2.RTO

3.BMC

4.Port Authorities

All these have a cheque and cash component – which is ridiculous! We don’t know to whom the final cash goes to but there is a cash component. Also, once on location, one has to make provisions to pay cash to any authority that lands up, throwing some more regulations at the production!

There needs to be a one-window process for all this as all four bodies are government agencies. It’s the same all over the country. It is getting more and more expensive to shoot in bigger cities whereas smaller towns come with their own set of problems – lack of clear-cut guidelines.

Mumbai and Delhi entail far more expensive on-location costs than London and New York. For example, there is zero location cost to shoot anywhere on the streets of New York! We have to follow a simple process of applying for permission to the relevant local body a few days in advance with details of the exact streets you want to shoot on. The local body blocks off the relevant streets for you, to make it convenient for you to shoot, and diverts traffic to other streets to avoid any kind of traffic or other issues.

The only cost to the producer is the cost of the official police who are stationed to supervise/protect your shoot from any disturbance. And this cost is the official hourly rate that a policeman is paid by the government of USA. There are no hidden costs.

Private locations in big cities in India are by far the most expensive anywhere in the world. Airports, five-star hotels etc are far cheaper overseas when compared to the same locations in Mumbai or Delhi.

These are some of the reasons producers prefer to shoot abroad than in India.

rajan-kapoor-2Rajan Kapoor, Kabul Express, Phantom, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Tubelight

As an executive producer, I don’t go to cities and seek permission to shoot; we outsource that to the cities line producer. Unfortunately, even they have to give bribes to get things done. As a result the project becomes more expensive. We are blessed to live in a country like India where you have a desert, sea, snow-capped mountains, rivers, heritage and historical locations. The sad part is that corruption takes away from this. Shooting in Canada is more expensive than shooting in India, but producers still choose to shoot abroad. Why? When you shoot in Canada, you get a one-window clearance. Once you get that clearance, you know there is no more money you need to hand over under the table.
In India, even after getting all the permissions, a lot of money has to be spent on daily basis. And it’s not just the fault of other side; we do wrong too. For example, if you are not being allowed to shoot in a certain location, you should leave and start looking for another option, right? But no; we bribe and pay off people and somehow get that original location for ourselves. So we too spoil the system.
Not that the government isn’t taking measures to support shoots. In fact, governments in states like Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh are taking a special interest in films, welcoming film shoots and providing rebates. These states are also working towards single-window clearance. Currently, shooting at a heritage monument, for example, needs separate clearance from the archaeological department, tourism department, traffic police, local police. One-window clearance would make things so much easier, if done properly.
States like Jammu Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh understand the power of tourism. They know that if big films and good films are shot in their states, tourism will increase. In fact, the local people support us and are very cooperative too.
Now, some states are working on making proper hotels, cars etc available, because these are things you need when you shoot on location. Countries like Japan and the US call us to shoot in their countries, but why shoot there and spend money in another country when you have everything available in your own country?
The biggest problem is shooting in Mumbai. If you need to shoot at Marine Drive, they give you permission but the clauses are you can’t shoot on the road, you can’t keep your things on the footpath. If you want to shoot a coastal scene at Bhaucha Dhakka, you need seven different permissions – environmental department, Navy, Coast Guard, and so many other departments. It becomes a nightmare. And even after giving you permission to shoot, they can step in at any point and ask you to stop shooting, which happens. So you prefer shooting in a foreign country or creating a set at Film City.
The problem arises when your script demands such locations. If it’s a dream sequence, you can shoot anywhere. But if the script demands Delhi’s crowded markets, then that is where you have to shoot.
So as an industry, along with the support of the central government, we need to make India a shoot-friendly country because we have a huge industry, just not Hindi films but regional films too. And if we could set proper systems in place, we could attract foreign films too!

anil-davda-1Anil Davda

PK, Munna Bhai MBBS, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, Kareeb, Parindey,
1942: A Love Story

Basically, once the director finalises a set of locations, the team starts seeking permission to shoot in those locations. Shooting in India these days takes a range of permissions, starting with the municipality and local police. The problem arises at our end – we as an industry are known for last-minute demands, and when permission becomes difficult we use our Indian jugaadu avatar.

Since I started, a lot of things have changed. In the days of 1947: A Love Story, we would just go and shoot. There used to be no rents. In fact, people would invite us to shoot on their premises. I remember shooting in Wai in the '90s and everyone pulling out cots, giving us tea and coffee, letting us shoot in their village. Today, they charge Rs.50,000 per day to shoot in that area. And all this has happened because of middlemen who charge a lot. Earlier we used to work on the basis of trust; today we work on the basis of contracts.

I remember shooting for Kareeb in Himachal Pradesh’s Rewalsar village and they didn’t charge us anything. We were given one government guesthouse where the actors and top technicians stayed. The rest of the crew stayed at a gurudwara and in local houses. And no one charged us anything. It was only towards the end when the gram panchayat people came to meet us that Vidhu Vinod Chopra donated money.

Earlier things used to work differently. Now if you are using a bungalow, you pay a certain sum. And if you even shift a plant from right to left, they demand Rs.100 extra. Their reason: You would have had to source that plant from outside; rather than that, pay us. Things have changed drastically.

In fact, the most cooperative state was Kashmir, where we shot Mission Kashmir. From the people to the police and state government, everyone was very cooperative throughout the shoot. We even got our hotel rooms at a 50 per
cent discount.

Earlier we just had to inform local officials about a shoot. Now one has to take permission six days prior if you need to shoot on Marine Drive or use a public road. The issue is that nothing is that well-planned. Sometimes one has to shoot a scene depending on the star’s avaibility. And if you don’t take six days’ prior permission but need it ASAP, even to talk to the concerned person you need to pay.

Still, all over India, even today, people don’t create a ruckus and they allow you to shoot. But not in Mumbai. Mumbai is the toughest place to shoot a film.  First there are all the permissions, from the RTO and police to sometimes the archaeological department and Coast Guard, and still your shoot will see police people dropping by every 15 minutes.

You can’t block the way, you cannot block traffic, but still they give you permission to shoot. In all of India, shooting in Mumbai is the most challenging. And it’s not just about permission. The rates are so high too. Some bungalows charge Rs.1 lakh a day. It’s too high! There should be a body managing the rates so that people cannot just charge anything.

I shot Parindey on Mumbai streets and must have spent hardly Rs.100, whereas today you need to spend about Rs.16,000 to shoot on Mumbai streets. They charge you some deposit which they never refund.

Foreign countries give you rebates. But in India, where the film industry is such a huge one, no state provides rebates. In all these years I have not heard of any state in India officially providing rebates. There are meetings which happen, talks which happen, but the moment you go there to shoot, you don’t even get to see those people.

Why choose foreign locations?

Firstly, to get a good view. That’s why Yash Chopra went to Switzerland, to capture the snow-capped mountains on film. Another reason filmmakers choose to shoot in Europe is because the days there are longer. You get 16 hours a day to shoot in Europe. When we were shooting PK in Belgium we used to get sunlight for 16 hours.

Rebates are another reason. Recently we were shooting in Bulgaria for Shivaay and we spent about Rs.40 crore but we got Rs.2.5 crore back from the government of Bulgaria. Now Georgia is giving rebates too. Foreign countries are taking these initiatives because they want to promote tourism there. The number of Indian tourists going to Spain has risen so much after Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. They are trying to attract tourism from our country, but our Indian states are ignoring this factor.

Another reason is that you can’t keep using the same locations. When you shoot in a particular city, you also have to show the famous landmarks of that city – like CST and the Fort area for Mumbai. Now, whether you take the shot from right, left or above, it will look the same. And audiences don’t want to see the same thing again and again. They want to see something new. And that’s why a lot of directors choose foreign locations.

You can create a set at Mehboob Studio or at Film City, but a set is set. Today, with cinema changing, set shoots don’t attract audiences that much and new-age directors too prefer to shoot on location. So for the new backdrops and natural beauty, directors choose foreign locations.

Also, when you shoot abroad, half the details are taken care of by the line producer. If that country has its own industry, then hiring equipment is also not hard. When we were shooting for Shivaay in Bulgaria, we hired the equipment from there and got a fantastic studio that had everything. We also hired local actors and technicians and everything was taken care of by the line producer. We just had to go and shoot.

Measures to be taken

A film commission and a body like an association to take care of the details. We also need to document our shared experiences. So, if a film is shot in Manipur, they share their experience – what difficulties did they face, what kind of help did they get there. So that when B film goes to Manipur, they know these things. I believe a producers’ association should look into this.

One-window clearance for sure, but someone from the industry should head it someone who knows how things work.

Every state should give rebates and allow us to reach their best locations, which will also help increase tourism.

Finally, unity and discipline at our end. A lot of the time, our own people create a ruckus. We have to make sure that when we shoot, we do not disturb others.

kuldeep-rathoreKuldeep Rathore,Head of Productions, Junglee Pictures

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.

rajesh-sharmaRajesh Sharma

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.

Solutions

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.

Ram Mirchandani2Ram Mirchandani,Director, Creative Development, Sony Pictures Entertainment, India

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.

sarita-patil-1Sarita Patil ,Vice President, Content and Production, Viacom18 Motion Pictures

“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
a project.

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.

marijke-desouzaMarijke Desouza

Kurbaan, I Hate Luv Stories, Student Of The Year, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, 2 States, Gori Tere Pyaar Mein, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

Things will be easier when we have one window permission system in place which is what, we as an industry, are actively working towards.

In most parts of the world, you apply to the local Film Commissions. They liaise with all the required departments of the city/ state to approve the Location filming permit and come back to you with the highlighted issues (if any) and work with you to either address the issues raised or come up with alternative locations to fit the filming requirements. This is an extremely effective process to ensure a smooth shoot without problems popping up on the day of filming.

Shoot-friendly locations in India

The most enjoyable filming experience that I have had was in J&K when filming parts of Student Of The Year and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Right from the local people to local police and government officials, the whole state is so shoot friendly. They were extremely welcoming of us and provided strong logistic support.

We must accept our films’ biggest fans are the people of our own country. It is their love that gives our films the box office numbers. But the flip side is that when one is shooting in public places, everyone wants to catch a glimpse of the star they have watched on screen.

Of course, it’s never their intention to hamper you, but sometimes their enthusiasm leads to filming in public spaces getting affected. Like if the crowd becomes unmanageable, pedestrian and vehicular traffic are disturbed and the local authorities stall your filming.  To address this issue, the authorities sometimes permit filming only on weekends in business districts of a city.

Why we should shoot in India

India has one of the most stunning and diverse landscapes in the world. I’ve been all over India and, believe me, it’s beautiful. From the Himalayan mountains to deserts to pristine beaches to fast paced cities, we have it all. While the metropolitan cities are brimming with energy, there are other cities with a different but equally exciting pulse... and so much of it is still unseen! India is vibrant, colourful, beautiful and definitely full of winning locations for filming.

Shooting abroad is equal to shooting in India

It’s a myth that filming overseas is more expensive. Flying from Mumbai to certain parts of India costs as much as flying to certain destinations abroad. The logistic support available in certain countries is sometimes more conducive to filming complicated film sequences - especially action. There are some countries that give great rebates and incentives, but when you take airfare and hotel costs into account, it works out to the same as shooting in India.

Things that need to be done

1.We don’t have rebates on film shoots, except for regional films of that particular state. We must look into setting up a rebate system.
2.A rebate system would also draw more international film shoots to India, which will excite tourists and help the economy.

We the people

It’s important to remember that wherever we go, internationally, we are always representing our country - doubly so, when filming abroad. We have to become more disciplined and not leave a bad impression when we are filming overseas.

If we are shooting in a residential area, we must be considerate of residents, especially if we plan to shoot for longer hours. Residents don’t get anything when we shoot in their locations, so it’s imperative to make life easier for them.

dipti-jindal-3Dipti Jindal

Baaghi, Woodstock Villa, Dus Kahaniyaan, Alibaug, Mission Istanbul, Do Knot Disturb, Anjaana Anjaani, Joker

An executive producer is the bridge between a producer and the rest of the members of the film. They ensure that the director’s vision is met, keeping the director’s wants and needs in mind. The EP also handles the film’s budget and see to it that they do justice to the film at the same time. From choosing a location as well as making sure all the permissions and arrangements are in place, becomes part of the executive producer’s role.

For example, we were shooting in Bangkok a few years ago. We actually wanted to shoot in Malaysia, but Bangkok is more shoot-friendly in terms of cost. It’s also better to shoot in Bangkok because they have their own film industry, whereas in Malaysia you have to import everything.

It’s the same with Bihar, Uttar Pradesh — unless the film demands a Taj Mahal, because you can’t cheat on the Taj. If all it demands is a housing colony or street in Bareilly, you can shoot in Lucknow instead because the infrastructure will be better. So you do all those adjustments, all the while keeping the logistics in mind – fly directly, choose a hotel close to the shooting location to save on time and make sure everyone is well-rested.

Getting permissions is the biggest problem we face in India. If I need to shoot in Mumbai, the police permission clearly slates that you can’t make noise above a certain level, so if someone complains, they can come and stall your shoot. Then, if you have to shoot in south Mumbai, you have to have permission from the police, traffic police, customs, heritage department and so many others. In addition there are political parties you have to take into confidence.

So you do the rounds and you get all your permissions and then you have to handle the crowds and visitors. If you are in a residential area, you can’t shoot till late night. I think Mumbai is becoming more and more difficult to shoot in. You think it’ll be cheaper because you don’t have to budget for boarding, lodging or transportation, but at times it turns out to be more expensive. This makes things quite challenging.

The following are shooting friendly locations in India:

Kerala

We shot Baaghi in Kerala and it was really a pleasant experience. I got in touch with the tourism ministry and they helped us with everything – Kalaripayattu students, Kathakali dancers, certain authentic locations. When we faced problem in a crowded market where the shop owners created a ruckus, the tourism ministry helped us out there too. And then, something that has never happened in my entire career -- after we came back, they called and asked what difficulties we had faced and how they could make things better for us if we were to return to shoot in Kerala. They also said we could approach them any time, so they could get all the approvals done prior. 

Goa

Goa is also very shoot-friendly. Common people also help here and make things easier. Delhi is pretty much like Mumbai – you can shoot after spending a lot of money. And the bigger the star the more difficult it becomes to manage the crowds. As our industry is based in Mumbai, people are used to celebrities, but other states are not, so the moment you set up your camera, people gather. 

Foreign locations

Fiji started offering incentives and a lot of films were shot there. Then Georgia began providing good cashback facilities. The benefit with foreign locations is the one-window clearance and transparency. They go by the rules, so everything gets done in time. And they are very particular about their rules. If you are well-organised, it’s very easy to shoot abroad.

Advantages of shooting in India

Whilst shooting in India, you can bend a few rules and shoot for longer hours. You can also outsource things and, it might take time, but you can get pretty much anything you need. In the end, being an Indian born in such a blessed country where you have all kind of locations, you also want to shoot in our own country.

Expectations

1.Single-window clearance

2.A proper Film Commission body

3.More rebates from every state

4.Tourism departments should help, allowing us to capture the beauty of different regions

5.More recoginition as an industry, rather than being seen as an entertainment medium, because the more a certain place is depicted in film, the more tourism increases for that place.

georgeGeorge Cameron

Singham Returns, Dilwale, Loot, Rangrezz

In India, because there is no one-window clearance and because there are many departments you have to seek permission from, it becomes very stressful.

For example, we had to shoot at Gateway of India for Singham Returns, but after 26/11 they have stopped giving permission, so I had to get special permission from the union shipping ministry in Delhi, which was a very tedious task. Similarly, if I need to shoot at the Mumbai airport, I have to get permission from the union aviation ministry. A very important issue we face in Mumbai is the supposed jurisdiction, where two sides of a road come under two different police stations. In such situations, securing permission to shoot becomes that much more difficult and that much more expensive.

For every shoot, in fact, we have to run around to various departments – RTO, police, municipality and so many others. The more departments and people you meet, the more you have to spend under the table.

If not for these issues, I don’t think we would need to go outside India to shoot because we are geographically blessed and have everything from blue seas to mountains and jungles to deserts. If you go to Mauritius, there is only blue sea. If you go to Switzerland, there is only snow-capped mountains and no sea. In India you have everything, but there are two issues you have to deal with getting permissions and managing crowds.

Northern India, for instance, is so star-struck that shooting becomes very difficult, and if you try to impose some discipline, the crowd can turn against you. Even if one person complains, the police can stall your shoot. And it’s always the production manager who gets arrested. Such things disrupt entire schedules, cause revenue losses and you could lose your star dates too. Comparatively, shooting in southern India is better because they have their own industry so they are not so star-stuck.

States like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are providing rebates on shoots, but due to various reasons you usually don’t get them. It’s always cheaper to shoot in Mumbai, because you save lakhs on airfare and hotel charges. But then all scripts can’t use Mumbai as the backdrop and you can’t shoot on sets as much because many of today’s stories demand real locations. If a script demands that you shoot in front of a police station, you can create the police station in a studio, but if it demands India Gate, you can’t create that, so you have to go to Delhi and shoot there.

Another problem aside from the multiple clearances is the lack of transparency. Currently, you just run from table to table and beg for approvals. There should be a system where if shooting is not allowed at a certain location, the answer is just ‘no’. That’s how it works abroad. There, if you are not allowed to shoot in a certain place, they will tell you clearly and well in advance.

I would say, if we all come together, we can make these things easier and work it out so that we don’t have to go outside and shoot.

When it comes to foreign locations, the advantage of shooting in Europe is that the summer days are longer, so you get more sunlight and, if your workers cooperate, you can finish shooting ahead of schedule. But abroad they also have rules that don’t allow you to work beyond a certain time. This doesn’t happen in India; our workers adjust.

Countries like Georgia, Bulgaria and Poland are also offering attractive rebates and such locations are definitely a visual treat, but the expense is always more because of the airfare and accommodation.

Sadly, countries like Fiji are not offering incentives any more because a lot of film production teams ruined their locations. This is one point I’d like to make – if a country is giving you rebates, it doesn’t mean you should misuse that welcome. We too need to change our attitude. Indians are very jugaadu, which doesn’t leave a good impression, and the next team that goes to shoot there has to bear the brunt of this.

I have been in the industry for almost 28 years and a lot of things have changed and improved with corporate studios coming in. The industry itself has become more organised. There is more clarity today when it comes to work. We have better infrastructure.

The film industry is something that provides joy and entertainment to millions, so if a film is shot in a particular location, the tourism of that place increases and revenues go up. We do so many positive things, but the government still doesn’t look at us as an industry. It took us so long just to get industry status. So everything is coming very late but
I believe things are now changing for
the better.

Things that need to change in India

1.We must have one-window clearance for permissions

2.Every state should offer rebates

3.States should showcase their best locations, and co-operate while
we shoot

 

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