Why filmmakers are shying away from Mumbai?
Owing to annoying red tape and extortion threats, more and more Bollywood filmmakers are opting to recreate the city in foreign shores
What forced Anurag Kashyap to shoot his forthcoming film Bombay Velvet miles away in Sri Lanka or Rohan Sippy to film his Nautanki Saala only during the nights in the city that never sleeps?
In several Bollywood films over the years, Bombay or Mumbai has been depicted with its entire cornucopia. While there was the hero and the heroine, the city stood almost like a parallel character, a necessary backdrop without which the film perhaps would somewhere seem incomplete. But with changing times and government policies, more and more filmmakers are looking to skip the city and shoot elsewhere, recreating the quintessential Mumbai across distant lands.
The director, who has shot almost all his films in the city uses the word ‘extortion’ for the kind of treatment they receive at hand of the authorities. “In today’s times, very few wish to shoot in the city. The moment the shooting starts, nearby cops, custom guys - if we’re shooting by the seaside - municipal guys, and God knows who else will try to pinch money off you by finding faults with your permission. These governmental bodies are not different from parasites.”
Raj Kumar Gupta
The filmmaker, who made his debut with the Mumbai-centric Aamir and shot his latest Ghanchakkar in the city too, adds that shooting in studios is not inexpensive. “I’ve done two films in Mumbai so far and in terms of logistics, it’s getting costlier day by day. There is no one particular office to take all the possible permissions from. I don’t wish to blame anyone in general but given the scale our industry is at present, ideally speaking, it should be far more convenient for the filmmakers.”
Director of films like Phas Gaye Re Obama and Jolly LLB points out that the problem lies in the attitude of the powers-to-be. “The number of departments that comes up into action is taxing. Secondly, there’s too much of crowd and it that can be tough to handle at times. Traffic is a headache too. Reaching locations on time can be a hindrance just like finding enough space for vanity vans. I recently shot in Pune and people were accommodating. You don’t even have to leave Maharashtra to notice the difference. In Mumbai, the moment you step out of the film studios, so many people start interfering.”
The National Award-winning director has shot a majority of his films in the city and faced his share of woes too: “Not only ‘powerful’ people but even weather can be a villain at times. Being someone who was born and bought up in the city, I don’t see any other city doing justice to my stories. Having said that, I’d love to see all governmental bodies at play come under one umbrella. Everybody around wants to make money. On the other hand, common public on the street are far more cooperative.”
Like many of his contemporaries, the producer-director compares Mumbai with other metropolitan cities in the country. “If there was one challenge, I could have named it but there are countless obstacles when it comes to working here. Costs, permissions, reported disruptions to shoots by rival unions, shortages of shooting floors, the list goes on and on. I recently shot in Hyderabad and was amazed at how much better their infrastructure is. It’s much more feasible to work in places like that. I guess this is why more and more productions are gradually moving out of this city.”
Simply a coincidence?
>> Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Ghulami starring Sunny Deol got shelved last decade. However, what’s intriguing is the producer of that film fell off a building. There was buzz that some members of a local union were responsible for this ‘accident’.
>> Once while Rohan Sippy was shooting for Nautanki Saala - vandals allegedly belonging to MNS - smashed a lot of the crew’s vehicles. Only after committing the damage did the goons realise that they were supposed to target someone else, not the filmmaker!
>> Rensil D’Silva spent two months chasing the authorities for two-day shoot permission at Horniman Circle for his film Unglee.
>> Kiran Rao’s Dhobi Ghat was shot using the so-called “guerilla” techniques. Due to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, shooting was delayed citing safety concerns. The government flatly denied permission to shoot scenes at a railway station.
According to an industry insider, the average production charge stipulated by law is quite reasonable but the ‘local elements’ end up inflating up the cost. “Technically speaking, the production charge to shoot in Mumbai ranges around R 32,000 per day but it reaches R 1.25-1.5 lakh per day when authorities enter the picture in order to exploit. The filmmakers are left with little option but to shell out.”
Too many cooks
Before getting down to work, there are a lot of governmental bodies to get approval from viz. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), Mumbai Police, the union of actors and action artistes, local fire brigade, political parties in the area, corporators and sometimes even the collectors.