Despite better transportation, welcoming countries and improvement in budget, filmmakers today are shooting more and more inland. Shubarna Mukerji Shu writes on the literal change in the filmy scene
Pick some of the better films this month, be it Toilet Ek Prem Katha or Bareily Ki Barfi, Sniff, Shubh Mangal Saavdhaan and of course, Daddy, the films are tied to our land – to India. Babumoshai Bandookbaaz did as well as A Gentleman, despite one having the dust and grime of Indian interiors and the other swanky foreign locales. We have truly come a long way…
Remember days when they passed off Long Leat, a country house in Wiltshire, England, as Gurukul school in Mohabbatein. Oxford and Cambridge Universities were also used for filming the supposed Indian fictitious school for boys. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was shot in Scotland, especially the songs which were supposed to be shot in India as per the story.
Song picturisations went from Ambernath to Alps unapologetically and yet today we have an actor of the calibre and star power like Salman Khan shooting only in the confines of our country. In fact, Bajrangi Bhaijaan passed off the sands of Rajasthan and the hills of Kashmir as Pakistan.
No more a fantasy land
For a long time, cinema was conceived as a route to escape the woes of life, forget what’s happening in life and embrace the fantasy. Let the characters we watch be larger than life. If they are wrapped in tin-foil and floating amongst the clouds because they are in love, so be it. Give us the fantasy, give us the pill to forget. No more!
Films have no longer remained that fictitious place where anything can happen, give us reality the harder the better, right Ph se Phantom? “People who have watched my films are often those who see it when time permits, not in the theatres but downloaded version from the internet, these are people who want to relate to what’s happening in the film. Who would much rather have the pill for reality than escape into some mythical world,” claims Anurag Kashyap who has been one of the flagbearers of the change in geography and intensity of the Indian films.
Into the heartland
“The real India is in the villages. They are the ones that make stories happening. Be it the folklore or politics, it begins from there and sometimes even ends there. The gamut of emotions that the villages of India can bring forth is phenomenal. There is nothing that shocks them, but they can really shock the urbane… just because they speak in a dialect that is not taught in school, does not make them backward. They are far more progressive than many metropolises we have. So why not shift the Bollywood scene into the villages? Why should we not delve into what’s happening there, when that’s the centre of the whirlpool?” Abhishek Chaubey asks… Sure why not?
The aforementioned, Kashyap’s brother was the one who actually pulled the mighty Salman Khan in the middle of the Indian heartland with Dabangg and Mr Khan is now staying put. Suddenly, we have Shah Rukh Khan who though propagated films like Swades and Chak DE, India years ago, has finally come to interiors despite his raging NRI audience. So we have him in films like Chennai Express and more recently Raees.
Desi boys at work
When stories are opening up in the landscapes of Leh Ladakh, the beaches of Goa and even the cultural soil of Lucknow (Akshay’s Jolly LLB 2 was shot here as well), why would we go Kaavaan kaavaan…. Anyplace else, right Farhan? But is that the only reason why we are sticking to shooting within the confines of our country? Well no! “I remember it was first Ayaan Mukerji who made Dharma Productions scrooge for locations in Mumbai. Before that location hunting for us was always some gorgeous foreign locale, we had no idea how to go about the whole thing. We were totally clueless. We got the bearings together because Ayaan refused to shift the film abroad. But it was an experience we will always remember. I always tell him jokingly it would have been easier to shoot elsewhere…” quips Karan Johar, who is known to have the flare for larger than life, still drags the desiest of his films abroad for a little company tour, be it Badrinath Ki Dulhania or Ok Jaanu. Of course, for Johar an Ae Dil Hai Mushkil could have never been made in India, but he is just one part of Bollywood.
All others seem mighty pleased with the change of attitude Indian states have developed towards being Bollywood locations. We might have woken up late to the need for tourism but we are definitely putting the right foot forward now. For once, we have a lot of states agreeing to pay independent filmmakers some money for shooting films in their states.
“If we spend two months in say a state like Lucknow or even Bhopal, the state is willing to pay filmmakers a tidy sum for facilitating jobs and tourism in their state, why wouldn’t an independent filmmaker grab onto that opportunity,” asks the trade analysts who are rooting heavily for films made in the Indian heartland, because in it does help distribution they say.
Hrithik Roshan wisely points out, “You know why world cinema works? Because each of these Iranian films or Korean films are not removing their film from the own country and forcing it abroad for their NRI audience. If we stay true to ourselves, we will make better cinema.”