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Trouble at the Taj Mahal

Film and ad units have had a tough time while shooting or performing at the mausoleum

Recently, producer Sanjay Kapoor and his team were shooting for their upcoming film, 'Tevar', at and around the Taj Mahal.

Arjun Kapoor in a still from the film, Tevar. The film, that has been extensively shot at and around the Taj Mahal, recently ran into trouble for allegedly flouting ASI norms
Arjun Kapoor in a still from the film, 'Tevar'. The film, that has been extensively shot at and around the Taj Mahal, recently ran into trouble for allegedly flouting ASI norms

During their 50-day schedule, they even shot a song near the monument using a Jimmy Jib crane camera. However, after a local complained to the archaeological department (Archaeological Survey of India or ASI), the film unit was asked to remove the crane.

Sanjay Kapoor
Sanjay Kapoor

An eyewitness says, “We had taken all the permissions from the respective departments, but for this particular song sequence, we used a Jimmy Jib camera crane. Just as we were carrying out our shoot, a local complained to the authorities. So we then had to stop using the crane and take shots with an arial camera.”

Sanjay Kapoor brushes it off as a minor incident. “If one follows the procedures, there shouldn’t be any issues. It is understood that if you shoot at any place of historical significance -- be in India or abroad -- the unit has to follow the rules laid down by the authorities,” he says.

Interestingly, 'Tevar' is not the only film to run into trouble over flouting rules governing shoots at / near the Taj Mahal. Several film units have had to stop shooting at the monument due to failure to abide by the authorities’ rules and regulations. Performing at the Taj Mahal has been a tricky affair too. NK Pathak, superintending archaeologist (monuments), Agra, points out the due procedure for film shoots. “The producer has to submit a copy of the script to us.

A form has to be filled spelling out details about the shoot and the unit, including its crewmembers. If a unit has on board a foreigner, then his or her details have to be submitted to us. We also need to know the instrument that will be used during the film’s shoot. Safety and security of the monument is our top priority,” he says, adding that in the Tevar instance, they had to stop the shoot as the unit didn’t have permissions to use the crane.

He also clarifies that while they don’t object to filmmakers using reflectors and umbrellas, any publicity material — for example, an imprint on the umbrella or a product endorsement — is strictly forbidden. He adds, “We only charge Rs 5,000 a day, but there is a refundable security deposit of R50,000 that needs to made.”

Other films that bore the brunt...

hitlist brings you other instances where film units had to stop shooting or were not allowed to perform at the Taj Mahal because of their run in with the authorities.
(with inputs by Bharati Dubey)

'Youngistaan'
'Youngistaan'

The lowdown: Director Syed Ahmed Afzal recollects that shooting at the Taj Mahal in December last year was really tough for their unit. “With videography banned in certain areas of the Taj Mahal, we could only use a tripod and a camera to capture the front of the monument. Due to the ban on mirrors and umbrellas, artistes couldn’t even do their touch up in between shots. Also, I don’t see why ASI should object to umbrellas bearing logos or prints,” he says. Afzal shot most of his scenes in and around Mehtab Baug, which is close to the Taj.

'Ek Deewana Tha'
'Ek Deewana Tha'

The lowdown: In 2011, AR Rahman along with his team of singers had planned to perform at Mehtab Bagh in Agra against the backdrop of the Taj Mahal as part of promotions for the film, Ek Deewana Tha. But the ASI declined permission for the same. While the exact reason is not known, it is said that permission was denied due to earlier damage caused by the crew of the film, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan.

'Mere Brother Ki Dulhan'
'Mere Brother Ki Dulhan'

The lowdown: Director Ali Abbas Zafar shot a song sequence for his film at the Taj Mahal back in 2010. He recollects that apart from facing trouble while getting the required permission, the unit was also harrowed by the crowds that had gathered at the shoot. “I shot a couple of scenes and a song at the Taj Mahal using a steady cam. We were not allowed to use any equipment that has petrochemicals in it, so we couldn’t use generators anywhere in a 250 metre radius of the monument,” he says.

'Pardes'
'Pardes'

The lowdown: Subhash Ghai shot several scenes from the film in and around the Taj Mahal. He says, “We had to apply for permission six months in advance. And yes, there is certain equipment that can’t be used there. I only used a trolley to shoot my scenes.”

A commercial shoot
A commercial shoot
The lowdown: In 2012, Miss Universe Olivia Culpo came to India from America for a 10-day trip aimed at spreading awareness about AIDS and women empowerment. During this trip, her crew decided to do an ad shoot with her at the Taj Mahal. Culpo apparently wore shoes at that shoot and even placed them on a bench as part of an allegedly unauthorised photo session. She soon received flak for her disrespectful act and was fined for the same.

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