Veteran Indian film Producer Dileep Singh Rathore, who heads On The Road India, talks about how things have changed for better for foreign filmmakers who are willing to shoot their movies in India. Rathore shares his experience on the facilitation provided by Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s Film Facilitation Office for Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet’s shoot in India
Tell us about On The Road India productions…
We are a 28-year-old company. I started very young when I was in my teens. We began our work, when there were no production service companies in India. I have worked with Shashi Kapoor and was with him in Russia for shooting. Then began, On The Road India and we have been working since then for many big projects. We have worked on projects for major studios like Warner Bros. Pictures and Walt Disney. We are production experts in the Indian and South Asian region with over decades of handling international feature projects, award winning documentaries, commercials and high-end still projects. In all these years, we have done over 35 major international projects. Our latest was Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (Warner Bros). We were the Indian producers for the project. We did the film shoot in Mumbai. We were super excited by the coordination and facilitation provided by Film Facilitation Office set-up by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and the state of Maharashtra.
Share your experience of Christopher Nolan’s film shoot in Mumbai…
It’s best of the facilitation one could get for a film shoot. We are extremely thankful to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India and the co-ordinators at FFO and B A Gagrani, Principal Secretary at the Chief Minister’s Office, Government of Maharashtra. They were instrumental in getting all the permission clearances. This time for the first time, I saw that every department was accountable and FFO office was extremely supportive and they did wonders. I have to specifically point out FFO’s intervention in getting permission from Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) which provides permission for aerial shootings in the country. We could use helicopter for the Tenet film shoot. We still have some issues related to Customs — because for this kind of film, we bring large quantity of equipment. I feel, if this could be streamlined, that would be wonderful. We paid all our fees to BMC and other agencies. They gave all local permissions, allowed us to park our vehicles, and set base camps. There was perfect synergy between the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and the State Government of Maharashtra. We have to make sure, we help every filmmaker who come to India to shoot.
Do you see visible changes happening for film shoots in India?
Things are changing for sure. I can say with my 25 years of experience in this industry that it was difficult to get permissions. There were times Government used to behave that they do favours to local or international filmmakers who are bringing the films to shoot. With FFO, I can see visible changes in coordination. This is the first time, Government is taking the initiative that the filmmaker who is coming from abroad has to face no hassles. He gets his permission on time and he is assisted with the government machinery. The is a good example of ease of filming and doing business in India. Also, there is a realisation of money coming into the country. jobs getting created and helping tourism. A foreign film shoot creates job at every level from the film industry to affiliated industries (which support the film industry like hotels, transport, catering).
Will Nolan come back for another shoot?
Nolan was extremely happy and satisfied with the Mumbai film shoot. He had great time. Also, he loves India. There were no major hiccups and he had a fantastic time. He really enjoyed his filming, showcased India in a beautiful way. He loved Mumbai city and the food. This was his second film shoot. I was the India producer for his first film shoot Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. We had issues during that time. This time, it is different. He will definitely come back again. Because of his love for India.
Do you think more foreign films’ shoots will come to India…
With this great experience, Nolan would talk about it. Definitely, Warner Bros would want to come to India for another project. If filmmakers like Nolan or Peter Wier shoot in India, they bring lot of revenue. There is also a feel good factor to the country. There is a goodwill. That’s very important. And if people at level like Nolan or Warner Brothers talk about, global studios and filmmakers and will listen to that.
FFO had come to Los Angeles and we set up meetings with Warner Bros. They got convinced to come to India. Having done everything well, in a timely manner, it will boost the confidence to bring another project to India. I can clearly see new projects coming to India.
What is India’s biggest attraction to foreign filmmakers?
India is vibrant, beautiful and looks different from rest of the world. Why do people come to India all the way. They want to come to India for the elements they find in India. International filmmakers come for archaeological places like forts and palaces, Indian forests, Indian trains, vibrancy in Indian cities. If ease of permission gets better, India will find mentions in more scripts developed in the world. Even a small film brings couple of million dollars. Foreign film shooting and production services have to be recognised as an industry. This will send a great message, internationally. And lot more films will come to shoot for sure.