World Tourism & Bollywood
It is never too late to learn. And many countries are awakening to the range and reach of Bollywood as it grows more fangs and finds exposure across continents. Believe it or not, but one of the first countries to learn this sweet lesson, outside those that have already been reaping rewards, is Spain. According to the Spanish Tourism more than 75,000 Indians visited the flamingo and bullfight nation within six months of the release of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. After the release of Ek Tha Tiger, part of which had been shot in Ireland, television screens in India have been flooded with invites from its tourism department. For a while Dubai became the centre of attraction, especially when heroes started favouring the location. South Asian neighbours like Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong have already been going overboard enticing film-makers that in turn have been luring massive tourist traffic to beach resorts.
Australia, for a while, became another plausible location. But the big mistake that Australian Tourism made was to invite television serial producers, together with select feature film producers to exploit the same limited locations. First extensive shoot of Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, and recently Bade Acche Lagte Hain made sure no novelty was left with novelty, the drive to the Great Ocean having already been done with in films like Dil Chahta Hai and Salaam Namaste, Singh is Kinng. With almost every conceivable picturesque location done to death in and around Zurich and the Alps (first used by Dev Anand and later almost exclusively patronised by Yash Chopra); Paris, London, New York, Toronto younger film-makers have been glued to goggle in search of exotic locations, though if Kabir Khan had used lesser locations, and concentrating only on stunts as he did, Ek Tha Tiger would still have the same impact. The same gimmick had, unfortunately, not worked for Shah Rukh Khan and Farhaan Akhtar with Don 2, thus also falsifying the myth that locations add value to a project.
As if that was not enough, many other countries have started to enroll stars as Brand Ambassadors. Egypt has been another favourite hunting ground recently appointed Celina Jaitley as one. Reportedly, both the government and the country’s tourism department have taken response generated by some of the shoots, and the corresponding increased traffic and revenue is wooing producers with a missionary zeal. Ajooba hai with Aishwarya Rai making rounds of the pyramids in Jeans; Suraj hua madham picturised on Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham; Akahay Kumar and Katrina Kaif dancing to foot-tapping music in songs like Jee Karda, and Teri Ore in Singh is Kinng added to the lure of Indian tourist looking for alternate, less crowded locations.
But these are not the only reasons for going ‘foren’. There was a time when almost every second unit preferred the divinity of Kashmir until it was taken over by hellish forces; Ooty and South Indian greens and backwaters also became favourite especially for song picturisations; hill resorts like Simla, Manali, Mussoorie, Nainital, Darjeeling even Leh/Ladakh also found favours, and even continue to do so today. Danny Denzongappa showed film-makers a new destination called Sikkim though Jewel Thief had been shot almost extensively there in the 60s. Another reason for reaching distant locations not inhabited by curious Indians is, apart from the age-old permission-business, especially at protected monuments and tourist-friendly destinations. Another factor is the crowd menace. Rajasthan, especially Jaipur, continues to be amongst the most-favoured home grounds. But despite problems Hindi films shot at indigenous places have also resulted in return-traffic, apart from the home-spun ‘budget’ family holidays.
While Goa continues to be a most frequented and favoured location because of a spurt in the production of films down south, back waters seem to have become a big no no with B-Town producers. Of late Delhi and its satellite towns like Gurgoan and Noida are increasingly becoming plausible alternatives because of varied landscapes. However, even crowded middle-class residential colonies like Chittaranjan Park and Lajpat Nagar (Do Dooni Char, Vicky Donor), Pitampura (Band Baja Baraat), Chandni Chowk (Delhi 6, Chandni Chowk to China), Noida (Rockstar) and many others have been used as locations. Vivek Oberoi-starrers Kismat Love Paisa Dilli and Zilla Gaziabad have recently been canned. Even smaller Bihar and UP townships are being favoured by some of the younger directors. The much-publicised Gangs of Wasseypur is one such example.
With more cash available and different countries wooing Bollywood with largesse more and more film-makers are going the extra mile to shoot abroad. Also, believe it or not with single window clearances, no crowd obstructions, no recreation star weekend visits to Mumbai, and greater professionalism taking crews abroad to exotic locations is turning out to be far cheaper than anywhere in the country. The trend has actually come in spurts. The UK, France, the USA came naturally to film-makers once cinema in India became colourful in the 1960s. More adventurous and more money at their disposal, big film-makers started going far and wide. Hindi cinema started becoming global. The UN’s Madrid-based World Tourism Organisation estimates that by 2020, some 50 million Indians will be taking foreign holidays each year, thanks mainly to B-Town efforts.
All these, and many more films add an element of freshness to the stale, worn-out familiar Mumbai locations. There have been times when films released simultaneously show the same décor because they too have been shot in the same private bungalows. The specially constructed sets on vacant spaces in the remaining few studio complexes often highlight patchwork even if they are expensively mounted star-studded glossies like Wanted, Debangg, Singham—to name a few. Exposure to world cinema is yet another factor contributing substantially to the quality of production. But then here it is money that is making the mare go round.
Indian cinema, especially Hindi and Tamil cinema, is on the verge of a great change. With appreciation coming from international exposure, apart from an unconscious contribution to global tourism, it is reaching out to places undreamt of by the makers of the immediate past. For as a wise man said: “Life has no remote, get up and change it yourself.” That’s precisely what’s being unwittingly being done by the quality-conscious younger film-makers, the box office returns from foreign lands providing the incentive.
By Suresh Kohli