Kashmir to Cuba, Bollywood takes the road less taken

Written by Sudipta Datta | Kolkata | Updated: Sep 16 2012, 07:04am hrs
Even as many foreign locales woo Indian film makers, the country itself is yet to wake up to the potential

Cuba. Germany. Ireland. Morocco. Spain. Thailand Bollywood is crossing new frontiers from old, and still popular, favourites like the UK, Switzerland and Canada. The years biggest hit Yash Raj Films Ek Tha Tiger which grossed R200 crore at the box office, was shot in Cuba, Turkey and Ireland. Balaji Telefilms filmed part of the sequel of Once Upon a Time in Mumbai in Oman. But in the past several months, the industry has also looked within, at locations other than Mumbai.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan, an upcoming Yash Raj Films romance starring Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma, was filmed in Kashmir. The Bollywood superstar shot at Pahalgam and Gulmarg for nine days and hoped that more filmmakers would shoot in Kashmir. Soon after the shoot, he commented that the picturesque backdrop in his film would attract not only people from India to the Valley but people from South East Asia as well. SRKs films have traditionally done well in places like Malaysia and Germany (His Don 2 was shot in these two countries). Jab Tak Hai Jaan is scheduled to hit the screens on November 13.

It is a great sign that Kashmir is opening up, said Tanuj Garg, CEO of Balaji Motion Pictures, who rues that India has not done enough infrastructure and policy-wise to open up states for shooting. India is a fairly expensive place to shoot and this is why it is important to have good schemes to make it attractive. In India, getting permission to shoot is a challenge, things are haphazard and ad hoc, he added.

Garg says tourism boards of countries like Ireland, British Columbia, Australia and the Czech Republic have made a pitch to Balaji to shoot in their countries. We dont go to a location for the sake of it. We will go to a certain place if it fits the script, said Garg. Garg and director Milan Luthra felt Omans landscape was best suited for the sequel of Once Upon a Time in Mumbai.

Said Rucha Pathak, senior creative director, studios, Disney UTV: More stories need to be written around new places so it gets into the script. Anurag Basus recently released Barfi portrays a Nepali boy played by Ranbir Kapoor and for Pathak, it was imperative that we shot in Darjeeling. It was difficult to get back to the hill station for a shoot 15 years after Bollywood had almost given up on it due to myriad problems, mostly political. We couldnt shoot in Darjeeling in our first schedule because of inclement weather, but we went back and finished it. It was imperative to the story, said Pathak. UTV has shot many of its films in the past one year outside Mumbai, going to Delhi (No One Killed Jessica), the Chambal Valley (Paan Singh Tomar) and Barfi (Kolkata, Darjeeling).

There is a huge interest in Kolkata at the moment because of its unique architecture, said Avik Bagchi, MD, Prayag Group which is building a film city in Bengal. It will take time but we want to give film-makers a fully integrated film city and especially skilled technicians which is the biggest challenge. If a film based on a city does well, it does wonders to its potential as a tourist destination. We hope people flock to Bengal, he added.

The tourism boards of Kashmir and Bengal hope the SRK movie as well as films like Barfi, Kahani will do to their state what Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara did for Spain, when tourist arrivals to the country from India increased over 30% after the release of the film. Theres a reason why countries like Malaysia or Singapore or even Germany woo Bollywood with such gusto.

According to Ernst & Young, Indias travel and tourism industry contributed $1.7 trillion (or 2.8% of the global GDP) in 2011, which is expected to rise 4.2% by 2021. Several countries including New Zealand have inked co-production treaties with India to gain from the Bollywood market after realising the benefits derived from various Bollywood films shot at their locations.