Home is where the shoot is

Ranbir Kapoor
Ranbir Kapoor

With rising production costs, films are being increasingly shot on home turf and the ‘chalo abroad’ fixation is taking a direct hit


Khalid Mohamed

Published: Fri 24 Apr 2015, 2:35 PM

Last updated: Wed 22 Jul 2015, 4:10 PM

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, starring Ranbir Kapoor
An acquaintance called to ask, “Would you like to meet some people from Hawaii?” Intriguing question, that. The caller elaborated, “A delegation has arrived from there to woo Bollywood.”
The delegates were hosting a soirée at a multi-star hotel to chat up filmmakers about their beauteous state. Agenda: to offer subsidies and easy shooting facilities at exotic hot spots. Indian films have been shot extensively in New York, Miami and Los Angeles, but Hawaii has remained untapped. Needless to say, I wasn’t interested since I’m not into prime-budget filmmaking. The soirée happened with quite a few of showbiz’s top guns in attendance. But no Bollywood project has been announced in Hawaii yet.
 Raanjhanaa was shot in Varanasi

Raanjhanaa was shot in Varanasi
Nations from all over the world have noticed a hefty revenue potential in Bollywood. Over the decades, they have been offering international flight and hotel discounts, besides permissions to film at eye-friendly locations. Once glimpsed in films, these locations attract tourists from India — the prime example being Switzerland, which was used frequently by the late stalwart Yash Chopra. In fact, he was honoured by the Swiss government with the title of Ambassador of Interlaken, and a lake where he would shoot often has been named after him. Akshay Kumar, who has often encouraged filmmakers to shoot his action adventures in Canada, has likewise been awarded the honorary doctorate of law by the University of Windsor, Ontario.
Incidentally, back in the 1960s, the golden oldies — Raj Kapoor’s Sangam and Shakti Samanta’s An Evening in Paris — had initiated the ‘chalo abroad’ trend.
Hits like Chandni,which were shot abroad in locations like Switzerland
Hits like Chandni,which were shot abroad in locations like Switzerland
The Hawaiian delegation had ill-timed their courtship of Bollywood, though. Bollywood is no longer obsessive about international locations. The rising rate of international currency as compared to the Indian rupee has made the costs prohibitive. Moreover, quite a few of the international locations — particularly Switzerland, Mauritius, Singapore and London — have been overexposed, sparking a déjà vu response from the audience.
Consequently, the Yashraj production company and Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, which would often zoom off to Europe and the US, have had to rethink their strategies. The overseas market for Hindi films, which was booming at one point, has dwindled.
Back to the roots, Yashraj’s surprise hit Dum Laga ke Haisha was set entirely in the holy city of Hardwar, while Dharma grinned all the way to the bank with 2 States, depicting the cultural divide between Punjab and Tamil Nadu. Some amount of controversy was sparked though, when Dharma’s Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, filmed partly in Gulmarg, was passed off as Manali. Naturally, objections were raised by Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah.
Indeed, of late, it’s been a return to the soil as it were, with many A-listers basing their films in Delhi, Kolkata, Goa and Varanasi. Delhi came off as real as it gets with the Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh comedy Do Dooni Chaar. Kolkata has been the unconventional location for a line-up of B-town movies inclu-ding Barfi!, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! and Piku. Goa is a must for beaches, as in Aashiqui 2 and Ek Villain. Varanasi was especially well-lensed in Raanjhanaa.
So why not the very show-town Mumbai? Simply because permissions to shoot even on the roads and the railway stations are incredibly expensive, besides requiring clearances from the police, municipal departments and assorted authorities. Inevitably, independent filmmakers choose to shoot the city ‘guerilla-style’, early in the morning when the cops are dozing. Mumbai’s police commissioner has promised to create a single centre for filmmakers to use the city’s spots to film, but that continues to remain a promise.
Of course, the let’s-shoot-abroad itch persists to an extent — but at destinations that are closer to India. Dubai is still the spot to go to, as evidenced in Shah Rukh Khan’s Happy New Year. And if a film is extravagantly mounted, song and fantasy sequences are shot in Egypt and the Maldives. Action flicks, like the Dhoom franchise, too, are located abroad — even if that means showing Americans speaking in gobbledygook Hindi.
News is that the Turkish ambassador has given a carte blanche to Aamir Khan to film his next project, Dangal, in the wrestling arenas of his country. Not to make quick decisions, the actor has reacted by saying that the offer will be given serious consideration. But as for Hawaii and hula skirts, those may have to wait.

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