NEW DELHI: The resumption of film, television and web production may still be some time away, but content creators seem to have taken Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for self-reliance seriously. Filmmakers plan to restrict their cast and crew to local Indian talent and shoot projects entirely in India.
A couple of weeks ago, Telugu superstar Allu Arjun announced his new multilingual film Pushpa, that he said would be ‘100% made in India’ with the intent to provide employment to Indian film workers. Citing issues of limited cash flows and paranoia around travelling abroad, other filmmakers too agree that shooting in small, contained sets within India seems a feasible option for now.
“As businessmen, we will have to cut costs wherever possible and be more imaginative with our storytelling. Earlier using a foreign location would make the film look 'richer' and more attractive to audiences. We might have to rethink that," producer Anand Pandit said adding that elaborate sets and long shooting schedules also might not be viable either financially or from a health point of view.
Mahendra Soni, co-founder of Bengali production house Shree Venkatesh Films (SVF) agreed that no producer would want to take risks till the situation seems under control, even if restrictions on flying abroad are lifted given that individual countries have their own mandates when it comes to dealing with covid, including shooting for movies.
“I don’t think such subjects will originate from the writing and ideation team at all for the time being," Soni said. Fortunately for them, an SVF team shooting in south Africa came back just in time before the lockdown began in March. Their next film, a period drama is luckily set entirely in India, but requires large outdoor scenes and large numbers of junior artistes, but the studio is trying to work around that too.
Filmmakers across the board agree that while several countries such as the UK and Mauritius provide subsidies to films that employ local talent and promote them as attractive tourist destinations, shooting abroad is always more expensive, sometimes 20-30% more than what the same film would have cost to make in India.
For example, the London setting of Varun Dhawan-starrer Street Dancer 3D released this January and its exhaustive use of foreign dancers and crew shot its budget to Rs. 96 crore, making its Rs. 62 crore domestic box office pale in comparison. Even for films shot in India, foreign technicians have become increasingly common, for example, Hollywood stunt-master Kenny Bates designed the action for Saaho last year while Carlos Catalan has served as cinematographer on films like Dil Dhadakne Do.
“Flight, accommodation and location charges put together, shooting abroad is definitely more expensive," Soni agreed. This obviously would be a challenge at a time when producers are dealing with limited cash flows, stuck or delayed projects and cancellation charges on what they cannot go ahead with. As far as making the scale of the film seem grand goes, Soni cites the example of Sanjay Leela Bhansali whose movies seem spectacular even when shot indoors.
“The one challenge with this though will be that escapism is an important part of movie-viewing and films are meant to present a plus version of reality," said Siddharth Anand Kumar, vice-president, films and television, Saregama India referring to the fact that audiences may miss the larger-than-life aspect of cinema if films are shot only in India and talk about everyday issues.