India, land of beautiful locales and great talents, has reopened its doors for filming in India for global producers and studios. Film Facilitation Office (FFO), set up by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), is currently accepting online applications for foreign producers to shoot in India
At the recent India Global Week 2020 address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India is laying a red carpet for all global companies to come and establish their presence here. Very few countries will offer the kind of opportunities that India does today. India has opened doors for filming in the country, easing the permission process, a single film visa and facilitate single window clearance systems.
India is committed to welcome the global film community to come and do business in the country and work closely with the domestic media and entertainment industry.
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting views cinema as the ‘soft power’ of India, and is working towards making India as film shooting and film friendly destination for the audiovisual sector.
“Our Film Facilitation Office has facilitated over 80 foreign film shootings. Now, it will function as a single window for all Central and State government permissions. I appeal to the global film fraternity, to come invest and shoot in India,” said Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javdekar in a recent interactive session.
At the recent India Global Week 2020 address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India is laying a red carpet for all global companies to come and establish their presence here. Very few countries will offer the kind of opportunities that India does today. India has opened doors for filming in the country, easing the permission process, a single film visa and facilitate single window clearance systems.
The M&E industry is one of the champion sectors, enabling the vision of the Prime Minister to achieve a $5 trillion economy. India has enabled digital transformation by increasing economic freedom for the traditional M&E business.
In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, Indian film locales have captured the attention of global producers and viewers.
Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ (Produced by Warner Bros’) for filming portions of the movie in Mumbai. Mira Nair’s TV series ‘A Suitable Boy’, a six-episode, 349-minute long series, adapted from Vikram Seth’s classic novel, was extensively shot in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, India. It is currently streamed on Netflix across the world and BBC One (in UK and Ireland). Netlflix’s action thriller ‘Extraction’ starring Chris Hemsworth was filmed in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. Netflix has revealed that ‘Extraction’ tops the list in its 10 most-watched original movies of all time, as of today.
Now that the Government of India has opened business visas for overseas companies to travel into the country, global film producers and studios with Film Visa are exploring options to come and film in India. The aviation restrictions have been lifted for foreign business travellers and companies into India.
Already, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has announced guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for film shooting and media production in the country. Various State governments have also issued SOPs for film shooting in their respective States detailing dos and don’ts aligning with prevailing local Covid conditions.
Italian filmmaker and producer Sergio Scapagnini is soon set to shoot in India for the new India-Italy co-produced film directed by Goutham Ghose. UK-based Collin Burrows of Film Treats Production is looking to film in India for forthcoming project. Late last year, Paramount Pictures had announced producing web series ‘The Bear’ for Apple TV to be shot in Madhya Pradesh. The Hollywood project was based on a bestseller novel by Gregory David Roberts ‘Shantaram’.
In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, Indian film locales have captured the attention of global producers and viewers.
“Opportunities exist for great visuals, well written scripts and award worthy acting, but what the Internet has taught us is that consumers want every type of story. The government has allowed hundred per cent foreign direct investment in the filmic content productions. This sector has the potential to create thousands of jobs including opportunities for the unskilled and semi skilled workforce. The incentives under the champion sector scheme will be open not only to film shooting, but also for TV web series filming and foreign filming,” said TCA Kalyani, Joint Secretary (Films), Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, participating in a recent interactive session.
“I’m very fond of saying that my country has as diverse locations, whatever you want to see in a film, whether it is the mountain, the river, the sea, the island, the desert the crowds and post production facilities, you name it, we have it and you need only one visa to see it all for tourism and one visa for shooting.” said Kalyani.
Speaking about the internet revolutionising the entertainment sector, Kalyani said that India has enabled digital transformation by increasing economic freedom for the traditional Media and Entertainment businesses to operate. They are also nudging the industry for a better quality of service. The best example for this is that the OTT segment has grown phenomenally during the pandemic, she added.
The Media and Entertainment sector through innovation consistently has the potential to create jobs, especially in new areas of animation, gaming, etc. “The government has allowed 100 per cent FDI in film content productions. This sector has the potential to create thousands of jobs including opportunities for the skilled and semiskilled workers,” she said.
In the aftermath of Covid-19, India has announced Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for media production and film and TV shooting.
Soon, incentives under the champion sector scheme will be open to films, TV and web series filming. The guidelines are currently being finalised by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
Film Facilitation Office (FFO), set up by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, acts as a single point of contact for filmmakers to get all the relevant information about India’s film industry ecosystem, and help them navigate through filming guidelines of key Central government Ministries and State governments.
To bring more transparency, coherence and convenience, FFO’s web portal www.ffo.gov.in equips filmmakers to submit their applications online.
FFO acts as a facilitation point for the foreign producers and production companies along with their Indian Producer/Line Producer in assisting them to get requisite permissions, disseminate information on shooting locations and the facilities available with the Indian film Industry for production/post production. FFO also works closely with State governments in assisting them set up similar facilities. Visa facilitation is available in over 120 Indian Embassies and Consulates across the world.
Global producers and crews with Film Visa can get to shoot in India and this Visa facilitation is available in over 120 Indian Embassies and Consulates across the world
FFO is currently accepting online applications for foreign producers to shoot in India. FFO which was set up with a view to promote and facilitate film shootings by foreign filmmakers in India has also been extended to Indian filmmakers as well.
Alan McAlex of Jar Pictures and Production Scope, whose services started off with A Suitable Boy, a BBC mini-series adapted from author Vikram Seth’s eponymous book, directed by Mira Nair, says, “India now offers an entire ecosystem for foreign productions. India’s diversity allows a filmmaker to tell both India focused and global stories from here. We are able to recreate say a rural South African exterior, or urban London office interior right here.”
According to Pravesh Sahni, Co-founder of 25-year-old ITOP Film Productions Pvt Ltd and worked on projects including the sensational Extraction, “We have amazing locations in India, with professional technical crew to meet up with International Standards. The cost of shooting is far cheaper here than other countries like the US, the UK and Europe.”
Dileep Singh Rathore, CEO and Co-founder of On The Road Production, says when he got in touch with the FFO office for scouting filming locations in India, they were very happy to help him in connecting with a lot of people. He said they are making a coordinated effort to ensure that everybody is together on the same page.
Rathore, India’s most successful Line Producer for leading Hollywood Studios and European filmmakers, confirmed to Pickle that global producers are “expediting the process” to film in India in the new scenario of opening business to overseas companies.
Rathore’s On the Road India was the line producer for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (produced by Warner Bros) for filming portions of the movie in Mumbai.
“We are constantly getting calls over the last some days on filming in India,” says Rathore. “Interest to film in India is top in the radar of global producers. I am very optimistic that foreign film projects which were stalled in the beginning of the year will soon get activated.”
Another leading line producer stated that in recent times Film Visas have streamlined foreign film shooting in India. “Quick visa clearances for the foreign crew is one of the reasons why more foreign filmmakers are coming to shoot in India. For shooting in India, foreign filmmakers have to get clearance from the I&B Ministry. The Ministry officials coordinate with the Indian embassies abroad, and help in getting visa clearances faster.”
Over 118 international films have been shot in the last four years and the FFO has been offering all support to filmmakers to shoot in India. The country is now all set to emerge the favourite destination of foreign filmmakers post Covid.
Soon, incentives under the champion sector scheme will be open to films, TV and web series filming and post production services. The guidelines are currently being finalised by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India
In its endeavour to create a world-class film-friendly ecosystem in the country, FFO has been engaged in promoting various filming destinations dotting the country ranging from the lofty, snow-clad Himalayas to the sandy beaches of Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. As part of this sustained effort, the ‘Most Film Friendly State’ Award is given away each year during the National Film Awards ceremony in order to provide national and international level visibility to the best performing states in terms of filming infrastructure, favourable policies and incentives offered to filmmakers. Beginning 2015, this prestigious award has been won by Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim
Adjudged the ‘Most Film Friendly State’ of India in 2019 at the recently-concluded 67th National Film Awards, Sikkim offers picturesque locations like Yumthang Valley, Lachung, Gnathang Valley, numerous Buddhist monasteries and pristine glacial lakes that make for a perfect place to shoot a film. The small Himalayan state with its mesmerizing natural splendors coupled with an investor-friendly policy to make the work of filmmakers easy is extremely alluring.
With its own brief history of cinema, attracting prominent filmmakers like Satyajit Ray and Dev Anand, the state government has made several attractive provisions to have a friendly film shooting environment for the producers and directors and also for the local filmmakers. The state is also working towards setting up a film city. Over the past few years, the state, especially the picturesque northern district, has served as the perfect backdrop of several Bollywood films and many regional films.
On the policy front, Sikkim offers all permits/permissions and paperwork through a single window system. The state government has also identified, catalogued and developed promising potential shooting locations, which have aesthetic and cinematic appeal. Besides providing support through resources and incentives in the production of a film, the state also assists in renting equipment required for filmmaking at reasonable rates along with the fee of the technician to handle the equipment.
Another state nestled amidst the mighty Himalayan ranges, Uttarakhand was declared the Most Film-Friendly State of 2018. The state with beautiful hills of Nainital, Mussoorie’s waterfalls, accompanied by the divine bells at Rishikesh, Badrinath, and Kedarnath is the right destination for filmmakers. Action scenes are bound to get racier, if shot at the skiing mountains at Auli and Munsiyari. Blessed with a rare bio-diversity, the animals at Jim Corbett Park too await their 10 seconds of fame.
Among the initiatives undertaken by the state for promotion of filming include development of a film city and selection and development of places for outdoor shooting. Incentives offered by Uttarakhand to filmmakers include exemption of all films shot in the state from shooting charges, 50% discount for film units during the time of shooting at rest houses of Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Ltd and Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam Ltd, and consider financing (up to INR 1.5Crores) for Hindi films with production cost up to INR 2 crores.
Some of the films, documentaries and TV Serials shot in Uttarakhand include Student Of The Year, Koi Mil Gaya, Lakshya, Bunty Aur Bubli, Paan Singh Tomar, Shivaay, Dum Lagake Haisha, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Facing The Mountain, Kedarnath, Lifelines, Splits villa, Khatron ke Khiladi, Roadies, among others.
Winner of Indian government’s national award for the Most Film Friendly State in 2017, the ‘heart of India’, Madhya Pradesh, offers a wide variety of locales, eliminating the role of a set designer. From famous forts, marble rocks of Bheraghat, to the green hills of Pachmarhi, the options are rich and many. The temples of Khajuraho are UNESCO world heritage sites.
The state has made considerable efforts towards easing filming in the state by creating a well-structured web site, film friendly infrastructure, offering incentives, maintaining databases, undertaking marketing and promotional initiatives.
Initiatives taken by the state for simplification of film production include appointment of Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation(MPSTDC) as the nodal agency for film shooting clearance, incentives and subsidies in the state. The tourism department also coordinates with other departments to obtain legal mandatory permissions needed for producers. MPSTDC offers discounts at state owned hotels and free of charge shooting at selected locations.
Winner of the Most Film Friendly State in 2017, Uttar Pradesh is the rainbow land where the multi-hued Indian Culture has blossomed from times immemorial. TajMahal in Agra, the symbol of love, has attracted filmmakers to Uttar Pradesh since the black and white era. The temple town of Varanasi offers a never-seen-before cultural experience for the international viewer, while the Buddhist relics at Sarnath and Lucknow are other places that could double up as props for a film catering to a wide audience.
The Uttar Pradesh government has developed the FilmPolicy 2018 with the sole aim of projecting the cultural,mythological, historical heritage and glorious traditions not only within the country, but also abroad through widespread publicity. For ensuring availability of all the film production related facilities under a single roof, the Film Bandhu, Uttar Pradesh has been constituted as a nodal agency. The Film Bandhu works in the direction of developing Uttar Pradeshas a hub of film production by generating a friendly climate and promoting film related activities in Uttar Pradesh.
Initiatives taken by the state for simplification of film production include setting up a Single Table System to provide better facilities to the people associated with films, setting up of State Film Division to provide easy, simplified and timely certification facility for films, providing free security arrangements for shooting films, and financial incentive through maximum subsidy of INR1 crore for film shot for more than half of its shooting days in Uttar Pradesh and INR2 crore for a film shot for more than two-third of its shooting days in Uttar Pradesh.
Winner of the Indian government’s national award for the Most Film-Friendly State in 2016, Gujarat is increasingly becoming the most preferred spot for film shootings. Filmmakers wishing to offer the audience an ‘eastern’ experience can land in Gujarat.Blessed with diverse choices of great locations including spectacular geographical, archeological and royal sites, Gujarat is a treasure trove for the filmmakers of every hue.
Gujarat’s single-window clearance facility, presence of a dedicated web portal,international promotions, database of product facilities andhotels and emergency services considerably streamline the otherwise cumbersome process of filmmaking.
Initiatives taken by the state for simplification of film production include quick shooting approvals. If a decision on a shooting application is not taken in seven days, permission will be deemed to have been granted. Free security arrangement is offered at open areas and public places for film shooting and TCGL film cells at Gandhinagar and Mumbai coordinates, facilitates and carries out marketing activities for film shootings in Gujarat. Besides that, producers can avail services of a consultant from the FilmCell to act as their liaison during shootings.
Our state has a congenial environment and ample natural resources for film production. The government is ready to render every possible support to the budding entrepreneurs of this sector, saysChief Minister of Sikkim PS Tamang
Besides providing picturesque locations to filmmakers, Sikkim also offers all necessary support to them. These things have made it emerge the most film friendly state of the country at the 67th National Film Awards 2019.
Sikkim Chief Minister PS Tamang has promised all support to filmmakers from his government. “Film is an area where the outcome of skill, activism, perseverance and hard work is instantaneous. Besides gaining name and fame, one can earn their livelihood working in the film sector,” he says.
According to Tamang, through film, information of various events from the world is easily accessible. Film nurtures dynamic thinking and creates enthusiasm to trail and pursue the progressive world.
“Our state has a congenial environment and ample natural resources for film production. The government is ready to render every possible support to the budding entrepreneurs of this sector,” he states.
Hopefully our youth will make a lot of progress in the field of film production in the days to come, adds the CM.
Listing out some of the initiatives of his regime, he says, “Our government has launched Sikkim Film Policy 2020 which attracts film makers from across the world and provides subsidies to the film makers to encourage them to visit Sikkim as a film destination. We assure to lend a helping hand to the film makers creating a film-friendly environment and understand that film tourism with the global avenue is the next big thing to develop in Sikkim to provide endless opportunities for our aspiring and talented people.”
Sikkim will be very pleased to open its door and welcome film makers from all over the world, as we stand with the slogan “Visit Sikkim 2022”, he concludes.
WELCOME TO SIKKIM
Sikkim is home to glaciers, alpine meadows and thousands of varieties of wildflowers. Steep paths lead to hilltop Buddhist monasteries such as Pemayangtse, which dates to the early 1700s. Prominent shooting locales of Sikkim include Gangtok, Tsomgo Lake, Yuksom, Khangchendzonga National Park, Nathula Pass, Lachung, Lachen and Yumthang Valley, Ravangla, Namchi and Zuluk
The state government of Sikkim is tirelessly working on creating a conducive ecosystem in making Sikkim a favoured destination for filmmakers, says Pooja Sharma, Chairperson, Sikkim Film Promotion Board
Sikkim was conferred with the title of ‘Film Friendly State’ at the 67th National Film Awards recently…
This National award is prestigious and holds a special place in my life as it’s in tenure of Prem Singh Tamang Golay as the Chief Minister of Sikkim and me as the Chairperson of Sikkim Film Board that we could make it happen. This is an award of each and every Sikkimese. Many thanks to IPR Department and predecessors involved in it. My special thanks to the 67th National Film Award jury Mr Ravi Kottarakara -who has been a constant guide and support to us, Mr Firdausul Hasan , Mr Shaji N. Karun, external advisor to the Film Board Mrs Anita Gupta among others.
What is the message to the global filmmakers?
Holding on to this title as the most Film Friendly State in India is quite challenging but I find any sort of adversities and challenges interesting as they give me more strength to work hard and make things successful. Sikkim Government identifies this as the next big opportunity and supports and welcomes the international and national filmmakers who wish to `Shoot in Sikkim´ with huge subsidy schemes upto Rs 1 crore in cash and kind according to Film Policy. Other facilities include single window clearance permit done through Film Facilitation Office, logistics such as hotels and accommodation, and vehicle provided in subsidised rate after the Sikkim entry point. One bus shall be provided free of cost to international filmmakers. Government has made the shoot in Sikkim very producer and filmmaker friendly. We have good set of line producers empanelled with the board to make the recce convenient and viable for Filmmakers.
What is the state of film sector in Sikkim? What has been the impact of Covid-19?
Sikkim at present is seeing phenomenal changes as far as creative art is concerned. The state government is tirelessly working on creating a conducive ecosystem in making Sikkim a favoured destination for filmmakers. The State Film Board has already chartered the Film Policy which not only helps in projecting the state as a premium filmmaking destination but also helps in upliftment of local performing artistes, filmmakers, entertainment business professionals. The government has been very vigilant under the guidance of the Chief Minister P S Tamang and was well prepared in advance for Covid-19 pandemic. Various measures were already in place which helped the state considerably in keeping the cases to zero for a very long time. Though the pandemic did hit all sectors of the state, the resilience of the people have made it possible in bouncing back and fighting continuously.
What is the objective of Sikkim Film Board? Is a Film City being considered to be built in Sikkim?
Films are arguably one of the most important and impactful sectors in a modern society. It is a universal power of communication which not only records great events but also plays a key role in shaping society. Thus the objective of the Sikkim Film Board is not just to make Sikkim as a pivotal filmmaking destination but also give platform to the tremendous pool of talents that we have available in the state.
One of the visions under the leadership of Chief Minister Tamang is to set up a Film City in the state. The idea behind it is to create and build a robust and modern Film City in Sikkim which would serve as a complete film Production Facility.
Cinemas from North Eastern States are emerging as a film centre of India…
Cinema is universal, beyond flags and borders and passports. North East India serves as a region which is linguistically and culturally diverse thus having a wide array of stories to tell. Directors and filmmakers of the region are now leaping forward into the cinematic world. From internationally and nationally acclaimed filmmakers like Rima Das, Pradip Kurbah, Manju Borah, Dominic Sangma, Bobby Barauh, we have our own homegrown talents from Sikkim like Shyam Pradhan, Ugyen Chopel, Prashant Rasaily, Karma Takapa who have been successful in creating a niche for themselves in the map. Personalities like Bhupen Hazarika, Salil Chowdhury, S.D.Burman, Seema Biswas and Danny Denzongpa have made huge contributions at various national levels.
There is abundance of talent in the North East places like Assam, Arunachal, Manipur, Meghalaya. Many talents are now heading to global film festival circuit.
Cinema in the North-East is undergoing a forward transition and their creative vision is finding a space globally. Film Festivals have opened up avenues for budding film makers to screen their movies at large platforms like the New York Indian Film Festival, International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Karlovy Vary International Film Festival etc.
Do you get local talent to help global and domestic filmmakers?
Sikkim has unlimited pool of local talents who have been showcasing their talents not just nationally but globally as well. Various personalities have contributed in the mainstream Indian cinema and made a mark for themselves such as Danny Denzongpa, Geetanjali Thapa and Karma Takapa. Immense number of local talents are readily available to prove and make a mark domestically and globally.
Sikkim is looking at conducting a Film Festival. What are the plans?
To promote local performing artistes, filmmakers, entertainment business professionals and create a self-sufficient and world class film industry in Sikkim, the state government is planning on hosting a Film Festival later this year. It will not just showcase the local talents of filmmakers but also plans to felicitate and give out awards to encourage production of films of aesthetic and technical excellence and social relevance.
How is the infrastructure being developed in Sikkim for filmmakers?
A dedicated institution on Film and Television apart from the Film City has been envisioned by the government of Sikkim where film making courses will be imparted. The State Government also plans to create labs in consultation with National Film Development Corporation which will include Screen Writers’ Lab, Directors’ Lab, Producers’ Lab, Animation Lab so as to create a Media and Entertainment Hub. Setting up of screen theatres/community halls and upgradation and modernisation of the facilities in the existing cinema halls are also in the pipeline.
What is unique about Sikkim? What are the three things that one can cherish in Sikkim which is rare in other places?
Sikkim is blessed with an abundance of natural wealth, diverse culture, rich tradition and a riveting history. It is a picturesque paradise which is unparalleled to any other place in the world.
Assistance in permissions, Provision of empanelled Line Producers, Security, Location Scouting, Audition Facilities, Production Office, Meeting/Conference Halls, Conveyance, Lodging, Food and other pre-production support facilities within the state of Sikkim with ease of doing business through single window clearances.
The state government shall promote and facilitate, in assistance with filmmakers from the state, FAM trips (familiarisation trips) for potential investors, filmmakers, policy makers, film professionals and other stakeholders to encourage investments and incentives in this sector.
India’s incredible variety of landscapes coupled with advantages like availability of very skilled and experienced film crews places the country in an advantageous position when compared to several foreign countries, says Déborah Benattar, Executive Producer and Founder La Fabrique Films, in an interview with Pickle, while sharing her experience of working as a production services company in India since 2013
Congrats! It is great to know Cyril Dion’s “Animal” (selected for the Cinema for the Climate Section, Cannes Film Festival 2021) and some parts were filmed in India and your company La Fabrique Films helped in executive production. Tell us about your experience of filming “Animal”.
For forty years, 60% populations of wild animals and 80% of flying insects in Europe have disappeared. This is what scientists call the Sixth Mass Extinction.
After the success of “Demain”, with more than a million admissions in France, and César for Best Documentary Film 2016, Cyril Dion decides to investigate our relationship to the living world. His new film, “Animal”, marries the eyes of two teenagers, the English Bella and the French Vipulan, two young activists who fervently campaign for the animal cause and against global warming. Across the world, they see the extent of the disaster but also discover initiatives that give hope to people.
In India, they meet Afroz Shah, an environmental activist and lawyer from Bombay, who initiated the clean-up of Mumbai’s Versova Beach and has inspired people around the world to clean up their environment.
The film “Animal” recalls a fundamental truth: human beings believe that they could separate themself from nature, but they are in fact the nature. They too are animals. La Fabrique Films line produced the shoot in Mumbai in November 2019 and we feel proud to be associated with such a beautiful documentary film dedicated to climate and ecological commitment.
Tell us about La Fabrique Films? What are the projects you have done in India?
We have been working as a production services company in India for foreign productions since 2013. We have welcomed movies such as “Les Cow-Boys” by Thomas Bidegain,“Maya” by Mia Hanse-Love, “Fahim” by Pierre-Francois Martin-Laval and “The Best is Yet to Come” by Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de la Patellière, among others.
In the beginning of 2020, just before the pandemic, we had the pleasure to line produce a shoot in Rajasthan of the Swiss Film “And Tomorrow You Will Be Dead”, directed by Michael Steiner and produced by Zodiac Pictures. The film is based on a true story and its drama is hard to beat: In 2011 Daniela Widmer and David Och were traveling along the Silk Road in their bus when they were kidnapped by bandits in Pakistan and handed over to the Taliban. They succeeded in escaping their kidnappers eight months later. The movie will be released in cinemas in Switzerland on 28th October 2021.
What according to you are challenges for La Fabrique Films?
We have been trying to defend the interest of foreign producers in a very transparent way. It would be a great incentive for line production companies like ours if the government expedite the refunding process of goods and service tax (GST), which is required to be paid by local entities like us. As export of services is not taxable in India, line producers are eligible to claim refund of part of this GST from the tax authorities in India. We have been trying to obtain this refund on behalf of our foreign clients, but it has proven to be a lengthy and tedious process.
What fascinates you in an Indian location?
India is fascinating as it has an incredible variety of landscapes to offer. And apart from the variety of locations, one of the main advantages India has compared to several foreign countries, is that the technical crews are very skilled and experienced. It is always a great collaboration between the foreign and the Indian crew.
Do you see visible changes after the formation of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s Film Facilitation Office? Has filming in India eased now?
The Film Facilitation Office (FFO) has tremendously improved and speeded the permission process for international projects as well as the delivery of film visas for the cast and crew.
We are hoping to see similar improvements in terms of permissions with other institutions: Indian Railways, ASI, DGCA, etc
The government plans to incentivise filming in India as well under Co-production Treaties? Will this be an advantage for India?
Once the government introduces incentives like other foreign countries, India will definitely become one of the best shooting destinations in the world. Also, we would really appreciate if the government take care of few hiccups like streamlining the taxation processes, as mentioned earlier, to make it a win-win for all.
Your reflections on how tough it has been during the lockdown times… How do you see changes in the post-COVID world for filming? What are the changes that we should embrace to face reality?
The lockdown time has allowed us to become more creative and work more digitally. But we are very trilled to go back to shoot and allow foreign and Indian crew to collaborate as they share the same passion for cinema.
At the 67th National Film Awards 2019, Sikkim was adjudged the most film friendly state in India. The picturesque state in northeastern India well deserves this honour. For, besides providing beautiful locales to filmmakers, it also offers all necessary support to them, thus emerging the most film friendly state of the country.
Sikkim is also home to glaciers, alpine meadows and thousands of varieties of wildflowers. Steep paths lead to hilltop Buddhist monasteries such as Pemayangtse, which dates to the early 1700s.
Eminent filmmaker Shaji N Karun was Chairman of the Jury that selected Sikkim as the most film friendly State in 2019. The other Jury members in the panel were Ravi Kottarakara, Manju Borah, Firdausul Hasan and Abhishek Shah.
Announcing the Most Film Friendly State Award to Sikkim, Jury Chairman Shaji N Karun stated that Sikkim by virtue is very beautiful. “Our Jury visited Sikkim. They found that this is the probably the best state to be discovered in India. The jury members were impressed with Sikkim being develped as a filming state and even offer incentives to filmmakers, develop infrastructure and as well as encourage skills and talent development, despite limited resources. Moreover, Sikkim impressed with their honest approach and film friendliness towards filmmaking community with their vision and concern, which was far above than any other Indian State — especially, given the difficult terrain, location and size,” said Shaji N Karun.
Thirteen Indian States were considered by the Jury for this Award. The jury also gave a list of 30 recommenations to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting for examination and consideration of States in the Most Film Friendly Awards category
Film industry leaders maintained that Sikkim bagged the Award because of the film friendly gesture and leadership of the Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang, better known as P S Golay.
Prominent shooting locales of Sikkim include Gangtok, Tsomgo Lake, Yuksom, Khangchendzonga National Park, Nathula Pass, Lachung, Lachen and Yumthang Valley, Ravangla, Namchi and Zuluk.
But, fully understanding that pristine locales alone are not enough to attract filmmakers, the government there has implemented a string of measures.
The state has planned concrete steps to ease out the process of planning and shooting films in the state and is committed to offer an investor-friendly policy to make the work of filmmakers easy.
Sikkim Government provides financial support to eligible local film with the maximum limit of Rs 20 lakh per movie. Departments have to complete the clearances within a stipulated time frame of 15-30 days and can issue permissions to shoot films in the general areas under forest cover after verifying the requisite documents and credentials.
So, all these things have made Sikkim a preferred destination of filmmakers and propelled it to bag the most film friendly state in India honour.
The institution of the ‘Most Film Friendly State’ Award, is positioned to promote ease of filming across India. The State of Gujarat was selected as the most film freindly state in India in 2015, the State of Uttar Pradesh in 2016, the State of Madhya Pradesh in 2017, the state of Uttarakhand bagged the honour for most film friendly State in 2018 is a unique initiative in this direction.
EVERYTHING ABOUT SIKKIM
Sikkim is the 22nd state of India came into existence with effect from 26th April, 1975. Sikkim has been divided into four districts and each district has further been bifurcated into two sub-divisions for administrative purpose. Sikkim state being a part of inner mountain ranges of Himalayas, is hilly having varied elevation ranging from 300 to 8540 meters. But the habitable areas are only up to the altitude of 2100 mtrs. Constituting only 20% of the total area of the state. The highest portion of sikkim lies in its north west direction.
A large number of mountains having altitudes of about seven thousand meters stands here with – Kanchenjunga (8598 m.), The third highest peak in the world. The high serrated, snow capped spurs and peaks of Kanchenjunga look attractive consisting of Kumbha Karna (7711 m.), Pendem (6706 m.), Narsingh (5825 m.), Kabru Dome (6545 m.), etc. A number of glaciers descends from eastern slopes of Kanchenjunga into Sikkim where snow clad line is found above 5300 mtrs. The biggest of them is Zemu, from whose snout above Lachen monastery rises the river Teesta. Teesta is the main river and its main tributaries are Zemu, Lachung, Rangyong, Dikchu, Rongli, Rangpo and Rangit which form the main channel of drainage from the north to the south.
It boasts of the great mount Kanchendzonga as its crown. Ethically Sikkim has mainly three groups of people viz. Nepalis, Bhutias, Lepchas. The local language is Nepali. English is the official language. This jewel- like mountain state of ethereal beauty with an area of 7299 sq. kms , nestles in the heart of Himalayas. Cradled in the manifold splendors of nature deep within the snow clad Himalayas is Sikkim’s capital Gangtok. Wrapped in mists and clouds, a garden state with an incredible variety of rhododendrons & a host of other flowers.
FOR FILM SHOOTING IN SIKKIM CONTACT
Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Sikkim EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
India is sending right signals to foreign filmmakers. As a result, the country is witnessing warmth from Hollywood studios. Christopher Nolan’s experience in filming in India for Tenet has grabbed global attention. Dilip Singh Rathore, CEO and Co-founder of On The Road India was incharge of production services for Tenet in India. Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s Film Facilitation Office is currently wooing international studios and incentive package is on cards. Rathore says India is prepared for post-COVID shooting and expects a flurry of new projects. Excerpts from Rathore’s chat with Vivek Ratnakar
Pickle congratulates you on the completion of 25 years of On The Road India, which has undertaken many reputed international projects to keep us all entertained. Please tell us about your journey. It’s a good thing that we have now completed 25 years or more in the film production and production services and made many films with international filmmakers. Our journey started very differently. Back then it was a much different industry and production services were looked at in a very different way. I happen to be from a very popular filming destination State called Rajasthan. I was very fortunate to become a part of the productions coming to the State 25 years back. I worked with Mr Shashi Kapoor in the film Ajooba which was shot in India and Russia, among other projects. Eventually I decided to start On The Road India, and it has taken 25 years to reach where we are today. When we were starting, the production was quite different and government’s outlook towards production services and international filmmakers was quite different. Today, the things are much easier with government support. So it has been a long journey.
Founded by veteran producer Dileep Singh Rathore, since 1996, the work ethic and service of On The Road India has earned the trust of Hollywood studios, international filmmakers and production companies. Its team is based between Mumbai, Jaipur, Los Angeles, Sydney and Rome. This enables the firm to better understand project requirements and to deliver the best location and budgetary solutions for production in India.
On The Road India understands the challenges and risks of shooting abroad and the added complexity and diversity of shooting in India and South Asia. While there is no question India offers a wealth of opportunities to filmmakers, the challenges that face productions can prove daunting, even to the most experienced producer. On The Road India will help mitigate many of these challenges with honesty, integrity and transparency.
Do you think India’s outlook has changed vis-a-vis foreign productions in recent times?
Some of the major changes include the ways the government supports the industry. There has been a significant change in the government mindset
and now they are more forthcoming in inviting international filmmakers to come and shoot in India. Earlier, government officials were quiet
skeptical and used to be very critical about film productions. Even the Information and Broadcasting Ministry permissions used to take
anywhere between 6 to 14 weeks and we had to make many rounds to Delhi. But now the production process has really eased off with the
government taking it very positively. Also, earlier we used to bring a lot of crew from abroad as the local crew was not very efficient. But now any
international company brings only the key members while the rest of the crew is sourced from India itself. Also, they used to come with a lot of equipment. There used to be a ‘J-Visa’ for filmakers and crew that was complicated and confusing because the J-Visa was mainly for journalistic work in India. Also, the visa process was time consuming. Now the government has introduced a new category of visa called Film Visa which is very easy to get and the process is quite transparent. On The Road India has executed some of the finest executive productions for Hollywood Studios including
Tenet and The Dark Knight. Tell us about your experience of working on the Tenet in Mumbai India.
How did it feel to be working with Christopher Nolan?
Interestingly, I have also worked with Mr Nolan’s brother. So I had a very long relationship with them. The Dark Knight was shot in Jodhpur and the film required a very different kind of location. So we had to prepare the backdrop of Mehrangarh because of the filming requirements. To shoot the film, we had to completely shut down the entire Fort. We had to make a special arrangement with the royal family of Jodhpur. We would shoot the film during day and open the fort for the public during night. We shot there for 6 to 7 days and then achieved what Mr Nolan wanted to.
Similarly, for Tenet it was very challenging to shoot here in Mumbai. Without the support of the Maharashtra government we could not have achieved what we did. The government got us all the permits for shooting at a landmark location like Gateway of India. We had a huge crew of over 1,500 people and a part of the Gateway of India was frozen. We cordoned off the area with the help of the transport department that diverted the traffic
and we finished the shooting without any issue. The building where we were shooting was a high rise and to light around 40 buildings around
for a fortnight to shoot an action sequence was a mammoth task that was accomplished with the help of the State government, local crew and
our international technicians. Mr Nolan left India on a very positive note.
Has filming in India eased after the formation of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s Film Facilitation Office?
The government set up the Film Facilitation Office as an example to give foreign filmmakers confidence that they can come and shoot in India. The role of Film Facilitation Office has been very important as they did all the heavy lifting and worked as hard as us when we were shooting for Tenet. The FFO helped us get all the permissions, whether it was from the Aviation Ministry, Defence Ministry or Information and Broadcasting Ministry. They were working very closely with us shoulder to shoulder. They also played a key role in making all the right introductions and coordinated
with the State government to get all the clearances.
Could you list out some of the challenges that you faced?
The message has to be transmitted efficiently to the very local level when it comes to allowing film shootings. Tenet was a big project and an
important film. But if you don’t take any project seriously it brings bad publicity to the country. There has to be a total transparency between the agencies which are involved in the commissioning so that all the permissions granted in Delhi are also transmitted at the local level. A lot of people do not understand the urgency of the filmmakers to complete the shooting in a limited number of days. Anybody coming from abroad does not have an infinite time. He might be coming for a month or a few days and he needs to do the preparation and shoot within a tight schedule. All the agencies need to go an extra mile to make things happen at the right pace. If that doesn’t happen filmmakers will keep on going to other countries or they may
not choose India as there shooting destination. Any permission that needs to be granted should be given within a fixed timeline as filmmakers
are ready to pay for that.
What according to you are the three things that attract global productions to look at India now?
The first is story, the second is locations and the third most important thing is the dollar value, as the skill set in India is a lot cheaper than many other countries. We can build a lot of sets at cheaper rates. The day India becomes as expensive as any other place, fewer people would come to shoot here. They will only come if the story is related with India or for an interesting location.
The government is planning to incentivize filming in India as well for co-production treaties? Will this be an advantage?
The incentive plan is not there yet but talks are going on. A lot of states like UP, Gujarat and Goa are doing it at the local level but major Incentive from the Government of India is talked about and yet to be finalized.
How are various State agencies coordinating with the Centre to promote film shooting in their respective States?
Every State now is connected to the FFO office in Delhi, which has placed nodal officer in every State. I think they are all coordinating. Recently, I got in touch with the FFO office for scouting filming locations and they were very happy to help me in connecting with a lot of people. They are making a coordinated effort to ensure that everybody is together on the same page.
Popular filming destinations in India are Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala and Gujarat. Some States are not that popular due to information gap as very few filmmakers know about their filming policies. There are also infrastructure and connectivity issues, and little awareness about how to reach those States.
What impact has the COVID-19 lockdown had on the industry, especially for people who were on ground?
The pandemic has put everybody one or two years behind their growth targets. It has been very tough for the industry not only in India but across the world. The sectors that have been most affected are entertainment, aviation and tourism. Filmmaking is a collective effort and the crew needs to be together to pull off a project, but the pandemic has prohibited them to do so. The governments have opened film shootings but people are still skeptical. Besides, there are a lot of protocols to follow which is not easy. The people are afraid, cautious, and they are not very comfortable which has made a huge negative impact on the industry.
Now that India has given permission to shooting (to those who have film visas), what kind of calls you are getting? Are the safety protocols in line with global practices?
It is very early to say that things have improved. Although India has opened up, ours is mainly international film production. America has the highest
number of cases and the Europe has been shut down again. We were supposed to do 2-3 projects but they have all been put on hold. We are just waiting for the world to get rid of the disease. People are talking about going back to work but everybody is very cautious. Hopefully things may change in the next couple of months and some vaccine comes out. The safety protocols are good as we are required to keep a safe distance from each other, wear a mask and carry out periodic sanitization of sets and crew. A couple of my friends who are shooting in Germany have said that it had been very difficult to shoot with all these protocols in place, but people are still doing it. They are following it and it has been successful so far.
How do you explain the on ground situation in India as we speak now to a potential global producer looking to film in India?
There are different ways of doing things now. We have to do most of the work online as the number of people travelling has reduced drastically. We are still waiting and watching. There have been a lot of talks that happened in the last 4-5 months, and now we are scouting and sending pictures of locations and also looking for some scripts.
Earlier, we would do location scouting and the key filming crew from abroad would come to India for a physical visit. But now we are doing local scouting with the help of movie cameras and Go-pro to give a virtual tour of the location. We upload the 3D shots online so that the director and producers can have a look at it. I want to get back into action and I know that people are dying to get back on the location. But even if we start working on a certain project the shooting will happen only next year. So, people are working on script level or location level. So it’s looking very positive and I hope situation remains under control. I am keeping my fingers crossed that everything moves in the right direction.
What are the new facilities that you have added to your production services especially in pandemic times? What safety measures are being undertaken by your production?
We conduct more virtual discussions rather than physical interactions. For example, I was supposed to be in the US but I have not travelled for the last nine months. We are working from home and computers have become our important assets. We spend a lot more time in conducting virtual scouting. We have opted to use just one person for scouting as it is easier to manage that one person with gloves, proper mask and sanitizer. Our crew would never leave without taking proper safety measures.
Are you thrilled to going back to work?
I can’t wait to resume work. Like I said I have not been on the set and have not travelled in the last nine months, not making a film is the biggest depression for me. So I am looking forward to get back on the set again.
India now offers a high quality, end to end solution to foreign productions. An entire ecosystem awaits foreign productions in India, thanks to proactive measures by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India. India’s diversity allows a filmmaker to tell both India focused and global stories from here. A rural South African exterior or urban London office interior can be recreated right here with equal expertise and ease. Alan McAlex of Production Scope shares his experience of filming Mira Nair’s Suitable Boy. He chats with Pickle and wants nothing but to go back to making movies
In visualization to match the script, Suitable Boy transports us to fifties of India. What are the behind the scene experiences?
It is great to know every single shot of Mira Nair’s TV series was filmed in India… That’s right; every single shot was filmed in India on location. We didn’t create any period sets in studios. That was Mira’s vision- she wanted the look to be as authentic as possible, depicting post-independence India in the series. As a co-producer, I strive to ensure that the Director’s vision is implemented on screen. For A Suitable Boy, we scouted every nook and corner of the historic cities of Lucknow, Kanpur and Maheshwar. We also shot in smaller towns and villages in and around these cities such as Kakori, Mahmudabad etc. It was amazing to experience the rich heritage of India while shooting at these locations. We shot in several interesting places – tanneries in Kanpur, palaces in Lucknow, forts in Maheshwar. I was quite mesmerized by the beauty of these locations. Every location we shot in had such an interesting history and story attached to it.
With diverse experience in film production, Alan McAlex formed Jar Pictures in 2011 with Ajay G Rai. Together they have been producing commercial and arthouse films. Killa, that opened at the 64th Berlinale in 2015, winning the Crystal Bear; Liar’s Dice, that opened at Sundance and was India’s official submission to the 87th Academy Awards in 2015; and Moothon that opened at TIFF in 2019, are a few titles from their oeuvre. As a part of Alan’s several individual projects as an Executive Producer, he has worked on Dangal, which was the highest grossing Indian film, as well as the Amazon series Made in Heaven. In 2019, Alan initiated Production Scope, a company focusing only on production services that started off with A Suitable Boy, a BBC mini-series adapted from author Vikram Seth’s eponymous book, directed by Mira Nair, for which Alan was the co-producer.
Lucknow also had a rich collection of vintage cars that were an extremely important part of creating the 1950s’ visual experience on screen. We didn’t realize it at first, but these cars were very popular. On days when we shot with the cars, we had huge crowds gather just to see these cars. Our crew also enjoyed posing with these cars when they weren’t filming.
How has India and its outlook changed vis-a-vis foreign productions in recent times?
In recent times, when foreign producers look at India, they see much more than a country where they shoot one offs such as a Gandhi or a Slumdog Millionaire, in which the script requires a film to be shot here. India now offers an entire ecosystem for foreign productions. India’s diversity allows a filmmaker to tell both India focused and global stories from here. We are able to recreate say a rural South African exterior, or urban London office interior right here.
Productions are also more attracted to India because the overall risk of filming here has gone down significantly. With the formation of the FFO, we have a one-stop-shop to obtain clearances and support. We’ve always been a cost-effective destination for production and now there’s an abundance of talent and skilled professionals in our industry as well. We also have superb postproduction and VFX capabilities.
India now offers a high quality, end to end solution to foreign productions. Over the last one decade, the diversity of films that you have (co-produced/executive produced) is amazing. Some of the Indian films have travelled globally and won awards. What fascinates you in an Indian location?
Yes, over the last decade, we were lucky to find the right scripts and work with amazing filmmakers. Our films went on to garner critical acclaim, Killa that went on to open at the 64th Berlinale in 2015 won the Crystal Bear, Liar’s Dice which opened at Sundance and was India’s official submission to the 87th Academy Awards in 2015 and Moothon that opened at TIFF and MAMI in 2019, would be to name a few from our oeuvre.
Do you see Advantage India in the aftermath of pandemic for filming? What’s possible and what’s not?
In terms of the number of cases, unfortunately, we’ve been one of the worst affected countries in the world and this is likely due to our sizeable population. Efforts of the government and vigilance of the people have helped keep fatality rate relatively low. Productions in India have slowly
restarted with extreme precautions and strict health and safety protocols on sets. Some had to shut down again if a crew member tested positive but
overall there’s definitely progress. Things will slowly but surely get back to pre-pandemic levels. As long as we’re vigilant and keep flattening
the curve, filmmakers will be more confident about shooting in India. We have a cost advantage which definitely gives us an upper hand in these difficult financial times. In the long term, India will certainly be back as one of the top destinations of choice for filmmakers.
Now that India has opened up shooting (to those who have film visas) and business for overseas businesses do you see positive momentum? Are the safety protocols in line with global practices?
Yes, there’s definitely positive momentum. We’re already planning several projects, for next year and beyond. These are a mix of international and domestic projects. There are several companies that offer COVID safety protocols that are at par or even exceed global practices. It’s quite amazing to see the market react such quickly to offer these solutions.
Your reflections on how tough it has been during the lockdown times…
The pandemic has been personally, professionally and financially devastating for everyone and there’s no question that the people on the ground have been the hardest hit. It was very unfortunate to see so many productions come to a grinding halt due to which the livelihood of so many people, especially the daily wagers were several affected.
What are the lessons learned during lockdown?
The biggest lesson has definitely been that we’re all in this together. This pandemic has touched everyone’s lives, irrespective of boundaries. And we need to be cautious together to fight the spread of the virus to protect everyone around us. Another lesson we’ve learnt is that we need to be better prepared for downturns. When an industry such as ours is growing, one doesn’t expect such a bad thing to happen and that too so quickly. But, this
pandemic has taught us that black swan events can happen, so we need to be better equipped to manage them. Ultimately, tough times teach us to be more resilient and stronger for the future.
Do you see visible changes after the formation of Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s Film Facilitation Office? Is filming in India eased now for facilitation?
When it comes to international productions helmed by companies here in India, the onus to deliver all expectations smoothly is on us and that includes visas for the foreign crew, shoot permissions, initial project clearance formalities with Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to name a few. FFO has been the singular point for all these crucial parts and speed up the process, right from liaising with the visa office to sanctioning permissions for filming in desired regions of the country. Once we have these clearances we can seek local authorities’ permissions for the respective locations.
The government plans to incentivize filming in India as well for co-production Treaties? Will this be advantage India?
Co-production treaties are extremely helpful in creating the right incentives for filmmakers to shoot in India. Having foreign films made in India helps promote the local economy and tourism in the country. It’s a win-win situation. We already have treaties with 15 countries, but it would be nicer to
have more, because nowadays, film making is an exceedingly global endeavor. As an example, Canada has treaties with over 50 countries. In addition to co-productions, production services is also an area that the government can look at for incentivization. In my experience, sometimes the incentives, especially the State/local ones, are limited to feature films. With the advent of digital platforms, there is an opportunity to expand those incentives to web series as well. All in all, we’re on the right track and I am confident we’ll get better and it will definitely be advantage India!
What are the new facilities that you have added to your production especially in pandemic times? What are the best practices followed by Production Scope?
Even before COVID, safety of our cast and crew was of utmost importance to our productions. We followed international safety protocols and standards during the shoot of A Suitable Boy. An ambulance and a doctor were on standby on every shoot day for emergencies. Fire safety is also very important – we had several scenes in which we depicted props being set on fire. So, we had a Fire Brigade on standby at all times. We also had a dedicated safety officer on set that assessed safety risks prior to shooting at any new location. We were pro-active in addressing any safety concerns. In fact, we were ready to stop shoot if we thought that there was risk to the safety or wellbeing of our crew. The lessons we learnt during A Suitable Boy, we’ve incorporated in our Indian shoots as well. These are now a part of our standard operating procedures of our new exclusive Production Services company – Production Scope. Specifically for COVID, our productions have added additional safety measures such as masks, shields, UV tunnels, sanitizers for all crew members. We also have a task force that ensures social distancing protocols are followed at all times on set. We monitor, track and record compliance to all safety protocols as well.
How thrilled are you to going back to shoot…
It’s been almost a year since we finished shooting A Suitable Boy. I’m honestly quite eager to get back to shoot. But COVID is still a risk and we have to be cautious. I am hopeful that things are improving, and that we’ll be back to doing what we love most – making movies!
Films / Series produced by Alan McAlex
A Suitable Boy (TV Series) (coproducer – 6 episodes) 2020
Children of the Sun (producer) 2019
The Elder One (producer) 2019
Made in Heaven (TV Series) (supervising producer – 9 episodes) 2019
Pravesh Sahni Co-founder of 25-year-old ITOP Film Productions Pvt Ltd has executed production services for Oscar winners like Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi and Lion in India. ITOP did production services in India for Netflix’s action thriller Extraction . In a chat with Pickle, Pravesh Sahni expects 2021 to be great year for filming in India
The year 2020 marks the silver jubilee celebration for India Take One Productions. It is a landmark occasion. Congratulations from Pickle. How has been the journey?
Yes indeed, we have accomplished 25 successful years of Foreign Line Service Production in India and we would mark many more milestones. In our journey of film production we have worked with top studios globally. We have been extremely proud of the fact that our company handled the production of Oscar nominated films like Slumdog Millionaire, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pie , Lion, and many more which were well acclaimed and
well rewarded. I being the co- founder of this company appreciate the hard work of each member of our team who work 24×7 to streamline and
make the impossible possible for us. This is 100% teamwork and I would like to thank each member who has contributed to help us achieve this.
India Take One Productions comes with experience and professionalism. It helps its clients plan entire production process and execute it with ‘full perfection’. Since the company’s inception, it has been working on fulfilling its clients pre-production and production needs which include arranging a skillful crew, finding the best locations, obtaining permissions, constructing magnificent movie sets and overcoming all sorts of governmental restrictions.
With offices in Los Angeles, New Delhi and Bombay, it is a one-stop shop for all production needs before the crucial “Lights, Camera, Action!” is called.
Has India and its outlook changed vis-a-vis foreign productions in recent times?
In our journey of film production one has seen a complete change in production. It has no doubt improved tremendously from shooting on film and then processing to the world of digital and special effects and the fun of post production.
It’s fantastic that India Take One has accomplished some of the finest executive productions for global productions including four Oscar winning films (Slumdog…, Life of Pi, Lion that we’re shot in India)… Thank you so much. Things actually changed after Slumdog Millionaire, when the world cinema realised that we in India could deliver the finest production services as our professional technical crew is as competent and efficient and at par
with the international crew.
Tell us about the Extraction shooting in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It is now the all-time number one movie in Netflix?
Extraction was one of the first international films, full of stunts and action. The Gujarat government helped us to a great extent and made Netflix USA and our director Sam Hargrave’s dream come true. We are thankful to Netflix US in trusting us with their first project in India. It is only because we could deliver and make things happen that they trusted us for facilitating the production of their next film called White Tiger which is due for release in December 2020.
Are you able to see visible changes after the formation of Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s Film Facilitation Office? Is filming in India eased now for facilitation?
Yes, things have really changed a lot. FFO, housed in NFDC is a big support and backs the Indian producers. We now have a government organization
which understands the problems we face, we have solved a many problems but honestly a lot needs to be still done to a goal we want to achieve.
What according to you are the three things that attract global productions to look at India now?
We have amazing locations in India, with professional technical crew to meet up with International Standards. The cost of shooting is far cheaper here than other countries like US, UK and Europe. If we have an Incentive in place we would be even more competitive.
Will the government’s plans to incentivize filming in the country as well for coproduction treaties be an advantage to India?
We have been waiting for the incentive scheme for very long. I have been a key member in helping draft this policy with the government and hope this can come out soon as we will need this incentive to get productions rolling smoothly. This is needed to compete with other countries. All the productions have been hit with COVID, this will help boost the Indian industry 100 per cent.
Do you see positive intent among various State governments in India for film shooting in their respective States?
All States will have to observe strict safety protocols to ensure safe shooting. All States are taking out rules and regulations, we at ITOP would have to follow the guidelines of the foreign studios which are far more strict. The success will lie only if we ensure all the rules and regulations are maintained for the safety of the crew, which will give other producers the comfort to come and shoot in India.
What has been impact of COVID-19?
We were in the phase of handling two projects parallel with each other. We were doing production of the TV Series The Bear based on the novel Shantaram which we closed on 14 March and Tarus which we shut down on 22 March. Because of the lockdown, India like the entire world has been also affected due to COVID. We were hoping that things get better in India in a few months and we would have been on the floor by September, but things got worse. Today we are positive that foreign production houses will resume production in India like pre-COVID times in mid of 2021.
Now that India is allowing shootings, do you see positive momentum? Are the safety protocols in line with global practices?
We are all hopeful that by March 2021, we will be in a better frame to handle things. Our company has always taken the health and safety of our team and the foreign crew as a priority. We want to ensure that we can create a bubble for our team and provide safety for all. We may lose a job or two to other countries which is beyond our control but we are 100 per cent sure that things will be streamlined and we will do our best to make things happen like before.
Tell us some of the few positives and some challenges for overseas people to shoot…
The number count in India may be high but our mortality rate is much lesser. So sure enough like Bollywood has resumed its production gradually, our production team is working on various ways to ensure safety to keep the crew confident that they are safe in India. We will bounce back like pre-COVID times and handle 2 to 3 big productions starting mid-2021. This is our goal and we are positive that we will achieve it.
How do you explain the on ground situation in India as we speak now to a potential global producer looking to film in India?
For International Producers we are advising to start Pre-Production in the summer and shoot in winter. Hopefully we will have a vaccine by then and a full safety guide line to follow to give all a comfort to all. We are in touch with three production houses with these time lines.
What are the safety measures undertaken by your production house?
We have always had an ambulance and doctor on our sets even in pre- COVID times. Now we plan to set up a full COVID testing lab on our set in one of the vanity vans, and see that all crew is tested twice a week, maintain three rings of crew on set with colored bands, sanitize the set before use and also during all breaks and see all the crew members maintain proper distancing possible and sanitize at regular intervals. No one will be spared from main cast to crew, drivers, spot boys. We have also planned to keep all crew in one hotel to maintain a bubble.
How thrilled are you to going back to shoot?
We are looking forward to get on the sets again. We all are passionate about filming and implementing our foreign producers’ vision to reality. For this we are planning a full plan to make our sets COVID free. On sets we plan to have enough infrastructure created to keep our members safe with tests at regular intervals. We will ensure all safety measures possible in our production. We have been known for our safety standards even before COVID. We would sanitise and disinfect the sets and all the offices on regular intervals. The list may seem complex in long but along with production we want to ensure the safety of each and every member. Our production house is ready to take the baton and charge on to implement everything very efficiently. Our key production team is already handling production in Indonesia and we would not leave any stone unturned to lift the curtain in India and generate the same kind of job opportunities and revenue for our country. COVID has come as an intermission but it is not the end of the film. The show has to go on, and will go on; we need to adjust our wings to sail through 2020 and fly even higher in 2021
India is probably the world’s most culturally and linguistically diverse nation. Its people speak 22 different languages, besides hundreds of dialects. No wonder then that India is a land of many cinematic traditions. The 1800-odd movies that the country annually produces are made in a number of languages, each with its own distinct literature, history, theatre and music.
Indian films are produced in several centres around the country. Each of these filmmaking cities serves as the hub of cinema in one prominent language.
Mumbai, regarded as India’s movie capital, hosts the Hindi film industry that has a pan-Indian footprint. Marathi-language films are also produced in the city (besides neighbouring Pune) that is inextricably intertwined with the history of Indian cinema.
Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore, Bhubaneswar and Guwahati are the other major Indian cities where films are produced.
While the distribution of these so-called ‘regional’ films is largely limited within the territories for which they are made – they do not have the nationwide reach of Bollywood blockbusters – they add immensely to the depth and range of Indian cinema.
The centre-point of Indian film industry, Mumbai, popularly Bollywood, is a land of cinema. From commercial grandeur to arthouse movies, there is no short of cinema in the capital city of Maharashtra
The bustling western Indian metropolis is the heart of the Indian movie industry, producing nearly 200 films a year in the Hindi language. It also, along with the nearby city of Pune, produces Marathi-language films, which, in the silent era and beyond, thrived in the hands of pioneering stalwarts like V Shantaram and Bhalji Pendharkar, among others. A large chunk of the Hindi films produced in Mumbai constitute what is usually described as Bollywood, a label used for an old cinematic tradition built on a formulaic and crowd-pleasing mix of melodrama, romance, moral conflict and music. This extravagant form of storytelling is extremely popular in the other filmmaking centres as well. However, it is by no means the only kind of cinema that emerges from Mumbai.
The city has always had two distinct streams of filmmaking – one aimed at providing glitzy and emotionally satisfying entertainment to the masses; the other designed to appeal to a niche audience with a taste for more realistic movies. There have of course been occasions when these two separate approaches have merged in the same film and resulted in timeless classics such as Mother India, Mughal-e-Azam, Deewar and Lagaan. The A-list Mumbai cinema stars, objects of adulation around the country and by the Indian Diaspora, power the mainstream Bollywood industry. Mumbai played a key role in the evolution of parallel films in the late 1960s and 1970s,thanks to the efforts of directors like Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani. Its filmmakers also drove the global spread of the Bollywood narrative idiom in the aftermath of major commercial successes in the past decade and a half. A breed of younger Mumbai filmmakers, migrants to the city from different parts of the country, have scripted a new kind of popular cinema that blends social awareness, aesthetic clarity and stylistic accessibility. Several of these films have travelled to international festivals in recent years while finding takers on the domestic distribution circuit as well.
Located down south of India, Chennai is the birthplace of Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada film industries. While the last three moved to their respective neighbouring states, Tamil movies continue to be made in this city, thus making it a sought after destination of movie making in the country
Chennai (formerly Madras) is home to the hugely successful and productive Tamil movie industry, which has, over the decades, given Indian cinema a few of its biggest and most abiding stars. The Tamil movie industry has seen film production since the mid 1910s. It has constantly kept pace with the growth of the rest of Indian cinema. In fact, at several junctures in its history, it even set the pace for others to follow, especially in matters of technology and film production practices. Tamil cinema has a following not only in the state of Tamil Nadu but also in the other southern states of India, besides among the Tamil expatriate community across the world. Hindi versions of Tamil box office hits as well as bilingual productions mounted in Chennai have been successful around India ever since 1948’s Chandralekha opened the sluice-gates for nationally distributed films from this part of India.
The dominant strain of Tamil movies, like that of Hindi popular cinema, hinges on the crowd-pulling power of its male superstars, notably veterans Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. A new generation of stars have continued the tradition. But in the past as well as in recent times, the industry has seen a steady output of films from young directors working outside the conventional star system with great success. For audiences around the country, Mani Ratnam, who also makes films in Hindi, is one of the better known Chennai directors.
Kolkata has given the world some of the best movies and filmmakers. Right from the black and white era, Bengali films carried the stamp of reality and social awareness, and the flag still flies high.
Bengali-language cinema, known the world over for the celebrated masterpieces of Satyajit Ray, is produced in Kolkata from studios located largely in Tollygunge in the city’s southern suburbs.
Many of the pioneers of early Indian cinema worked in this city in the silent era. In fact, Hiralal Sen is known to have made films here well before India’s officially recognized first full-fledged fiction film, D.G. Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra, was screened in Mumbai. Commercial Bengali cinema has thrived right since the silent era, barring a few troughs in the 1980s and 1990s caused by the death of its most luminous superstar Uttam Kumar and the retirement of his on-screen partner Suchitra Sen.But it is for the critically acclaimed works of three masters – Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen – that Kolkata enjoys global fame. Directors such as Tapan Sinha and Tarun Majumdar built their careers around films that struck a fine balance between artistic merit and commercial potential.
More than their counterparts in any of the other film production centres of India, screenwriters and directors in Kolkata, especially those that work in the non-mainstream sphere, continue to draw inspiration primarily from literature. It is a tradition that dates back to the silent era, a period during which Bengali cinema, unlike other cinemas that were beginning to take roots in that period, produced social satires and dramas adapted from literary works rather than mythological epics.
Not just the land, but its films too are known for their spicy nature. It will be no exaggeration if we call Hyderabad the capital of commercial cinema. For, most of India’s colourful and costly movies are made here.
Hyderabad is the hub of Telugu cinema, which is one of the most prolific and commercially consistent of all the cinemas of India. Between Telengana and Andhra Pradesh, the two separate states that the erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh has recently been split into, there are 2800 movie halls, the highest in any single region of India. On several occasions in the last decade, Telugu films accounted for more releases in a year than cinema in any other Indian language, including Hindi. Many big-budget Hindi and Tamil films are official remakes of Telugu hits, a sure measure of the mass appeal of movies made in Hyderabad. In terms of artistic quality and global recognition, Telugu cinema may lag behind films made in Malayalam and Tamil, but it continues to be the most robust of the southern industries.Hyderabad has some of India’s best film production studios. They have been set up by established names of the Telugu movie industry – men such as B. N. Reddy, L.V. Prasad, Akkineni Nageswara Rao and D. Rama Naidu. Until about three decades ago, large sections of the Telugu movie industry operated out of Chennai. But today, Hyderabad is where all the Telugu cinema action is focused. Filmmmaker S.S. Rajamouli and male stars such as Prabhas enjoy nationwide popularity thanks mainly to the super success of the period action drama Baahubali.
Known for producing award winning films, Thiruvananthapuram, the hub of Malayalam cinema, is lately carving a niche for itself for new-age content-rich and commercial movies. From Adoor Gopalakrishnan to Mohanlal-Mammootty to Vineeth-Nivin Pauly, the land has a rich legacy of cinema
Thiruvananthapuram (formerly Trivandrum) is the capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala. The city, along with Kochi, serves as the nerve-centre of cinema in Malayalam. Although films were made in the state in the silent era, cinema in Kerala was late to flourish and at the time of India’s Independence in 1947, only a handful of Malayalam filmshad been produced. But when the movie industry in this part of the country took off in the 1950s, it not only quickly caught up with the rest of Indian cinema, it also established itself at the forefront of the Indian parallel cinema movement. Malayalam movie superstars Mohanlal and Mammootty are known across the country and directors such as Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Shaji N. Karun and the late G. Aravindan are feted at film festivals around the world.
When Malayalam cinema began to assume the proportions of a full-fledged industry post-Independence, it was headquartered in Chennai. It was only by the late 1980s that it moved completely to its current location in Thiruvananthapuram. Like the other cinemas of India, Malayalam movies are divided between a popular genre and a socially relevant strand. Cinema from Kerala gained national and international prominence, riding on the films made by Adoor and Aravindan in the 1970s and 1980s. The tradition of making realistic and meaningful cinema continues to this day.
The capital city of Karnataka is the home of Kannada film industry, popularly Sandalwood. It has produced some great talents, from actors to directors to technicians
In Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, films are made in the Kannada language. The first Kannada film was made in the talkie era, and the industry’s growth was steady until the late 1940s. The 1950s marked the advent of Dr.Rajkumar, whose popularity as a lead actor in mythological epics helped Kannada cinema achieve new heights. The 1970s and 1980s are generally regarded as the golden era of Kannada cinema, which was enriched by the work of directors like B.V.Karanth, Girish Karnad and Girish Kasaravalli. In 1970, Samskara, based on a novel by celebrated writer U.R. Ananthamurthy and directed by Pattabhi Rama Reddy, inaugurated the parallel cinema movement in Karnataka. While alternative cinema has continued to thrive in the state, commercial cinema, too, has sustained itself despite not quite enjoying the financial clout of Tamil and Telugu films.
LUCKNOW, Uttar Pradesh
Bhojpuri cinema, which also caters to third and fourth generation migrants in Surinam, Mauritius, Trinidad & Tobago, Fiji and Guyana, has its own star system and a committed audience base
The central Indian city of Lucknow is one of the bases of Bhojpuri cinema, which is produced largely in and for eastern Uttar Pradesh, western Bihar and Jharkhand. The first-ever Bhojpuri-language film, Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Chadaibo (Mother Ganges, I Will Offer You a Yellow Sari), was released only in the early 1960s. But the industry grew steadily as the demand from people who speak the dialect in India and elsewhere increased. Bhojpuri cinema, which also caters to third and fourth generation migrants in Surinam, Mauritius, Trinidad & Tobago, Fiji and Guyana, has its own star system and a committed audience base, but it has failed to build on the opportunities to break into the national mainstream. The last couple of decades have seen a major spurt in the production of Bhojpuri films, but these have all been run-of-the-mill potboilers designed for an audience that seems to be undemanding and easy to please. In parts of India where Bhojpuri speakers live and work, these films continue to be exceedingly popular. But since most of these films are made on tight budgets and follow rushed production timelines, they tend to be rather low on technical finesse.
The shift of Odia cinema from Kolkata to Bhubaneswar heralded a new era. Since then, Bhubaneswar continues to be the focus point of Odia films
In the eastern Indian state of Odisha, films are made in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.
The first Odia-language film was made in 1936, but until the 1950s only a handful of more titles were produced. Back then, the Odia film industry did not have production facilities of its own. Films in the language had to depend on Kolkata, which made movie-making in Odisha difficult and unviable.
In the late 1950s, the first cooperative venture to produce, distribute and exhibit Odia films was set up by Krushna Chandra Tripathy. The organization was named Utkal Chalachitra Pratisthan, and it produced several films in the 1960s that gave Odia cinema a distinct identity.
In 1961, another production house, Pancha Sakha, was set up by amateur artiste Dhira Biswal, who produced four hugely popular films. His first production, Nua Bou, created a sensation all across the state of Odisha.
Odia cinema developed its own idiom in subsequent years thanks to the efforts of the husband-wife team of Gour Prasad Ghosh and Parbati Ghosh. The duo produced several National Award-winning films, including the epochal Kaa.
Other production houses took roots in the 1970s, including Diamond Valley Productions, set up by entrepreneur Sarat Pujari.
In 1975, the state government stepped in to promote cinema by setting up the Odisha Film Development Corporation. Five years later, the Kalinga Studio came up with the support of Chennai’s Prasad Studios. Odisha currently produces an average of 20 films a year.
Despite heavy influence from Bollywood, Assamese cinema, being made from Guwahati, has carved a niche for itself and its presence in National Awards every year stands testimony to the claim
Assamese films, produced in north-eastern city of Guwahati, are a constant presence in India’s National Awards. Yet the film industry in Assam remains commercially unviable.
Constantly under the shadow of Bollywood films, the state has not been able to develop a distribution and exhibition system that can prop up locally made films and make them viable.
At the turn of the millennium, a ray of hope had emerged in the form of a spurt in Bollywood-inspired Assamese melodrama that found takers among the mass audience in the state. But the trend was short-lived.
Despite the effort of the pioneers and the work of their successors in the 1950s and 1960s (Bhupen Hazarika, Nip Barua, Pudum Barua), Assamese cinema has been dragged down by the paucity of exhibition outlets.
Despite all the odds, the names of the late author and filmmaker Bhabendra Nath Saikia and the still-active Jahnu Barua shine bright. In recent years, Rima Das, working largely out of her native village near Guwahati, has made massive waves globally with her films Village Rockstars and Bulbul Can Sing.
Filmmakers from the rest of Northeast India, notably Manipur and Meghalaya, are also increasingly making their presence felt on the national and international stage. Manipur’s Aribam Syam Sarma has for decades been a leading light of cinema from this region of India and his films have been lauded at festivals, including Cannes.