Mumbai: The next time you see an ad set in Mumbai, with clear blue skies, swank chrome-and-glass buildings, crowded streets and a beautiful skyline, look again. Chances are the Mumbai in the ad is actually another city pretending to be India’s commercial (and advertising) capital.
Evolving: An aerial view of Nariman Point and Cuffe Parade along the Backbay Reclamation in Mumbai.
Even as other cities play Mumbai in ads, the industry is discovering it makes sense to shoot films outside the commercial capital—in cities such as Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Udaipur and even in Malaysia. This is a trend that has been driven largely by the limited number of locations in Mumbai, most of which have been “done to death” over the last two decades. “Today, people can actually tell you exactly where the ad has been shot, if you’ve done it in Mumbai,” says film director Abhinay Deo of Ramesh Deo Productions Pvt. Ltd.
With more than 90% of the industry based in Mumbai, the city has always been a popular destination for shoots. It also boasts better film-making infrastructure than most other cities in terms of studios, equipment, good editing and post-production studios and trained technicians. But the need to produce clutter-breaking work is now forcing film makers to look at locations outside Mumbai.
“It is important to evolve,” says Deo. “Not only does a new location infuse a fresh look, it also gives us an opportunity to do local casting, something that could make the ad film stand out,” says K.V. Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett India.
Among the ad film-makers that almost exclusively shoot films outside Mumbai is Chrome Pictures Ltd. “It’s easiest to shoot in Mumbai, but we choose to shoot in other cities as we want our work to look different,” says Hemant Bhandari, producer, Chrome Pictures.
“There is a limit to how much you can juice a location,” he adds. This is despite the fact that shooting out of Mumbai could push up production costs by up to 40%. And no other city in India has the kind of production, post-production and editing infrastructure that the ad capital of India has on offer.
Chrome’s ad for Maruti Suzuki India Ltd’s Alto, featuring a couple zipping across the crowded city in their small car, was actually shot in Hyderabad. “We were to shoot this ad in Mumbai, but picked Hyderabad as it communicated that sense of chaos in a brand new setting,” he adds. And the production house’s ad film for Slice mango drink could have been shot at a studio in Mumbai, but was actually done at a fair in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.
Corcoise Films Pvt. Ltd shot the entire commercial, for ‘Sunsilk — Gang of Girls’ in Malaysia.
The ad film, a montage of images featuring young women at different locations — at home, in office, at a waterfront — looked as if it had been set in Mumbai.
“Except that you would never find a nice-looking bridge here. If I wanted a bridge, we would have to shoot it in Kolkata,” says Prashant Issar, director, Corcoise Films. The cost of shooting in Indian cities such as Delhi or Kolkata is similar to what is required in Malaysia. “It just makes more sense to go to a location that best meets the requirements,” he says.
Red Ice Films Pvt. Ltd recently shot a commercial for Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co. Ltd in a local market in Rajasthan. “We could have recreated the entire marketplace in Mukesh Mills (in Mumbai, a popular location for shoots). But it made sense to shoot in Rajasthan,” says Vinod P. Vijay, director from Red Ice Films.
Not only did the crew get to shoot in a real marketplace but also got some great shots of the local architecture and a picturesque view of the lake —“little things that add to the final product.”
Other factors such as the lack of open spaces, redevelopment of old properties and bungalows and high pollution levels that result in washed out skies also contribute to this phenomenon.
The Bandra Kurla Complex, a popular shooting spot for ad filmmakers looking to establish the setting as Mumbai, is now off limits due to security concerns.
The complex houses establishments such as the American Consulate, Wockhardt Ltd, ICICI Bank Ltd, Citibank India, etc., that didn’t take too kindly to shoots involving exploding vehicles and heavy equipment.