When Yash Chopra opened Bollywood’s doors to Switzerland’s lush green landscapes and Alpine range, Bollywood’s romance with exotic foreign locales had begun. Not one to be left behind, the South matched the Hindi film industry step by step.
Now the “foreign” bug has bitten Ollywood. Till a couple of years back, directors and producers hesitated even to venture outside Odisha for lack of funds and other factors but now movies are being entirely shot in foreign locations.
Cheap travel, affordable accommodation, special packages from tourism department of governments overseas, longer days and access to exotic locales are driving Odia filmmakers to south east Asian countries for shooting. Not long ago in 2008, Bijay Kandoi’s “Katha Dei Thili Maa Ku” boasted of a song sequence which was shot abroad. Before that, Kolkata, Shimla and Manali were the hunting grounds.
Darshan Music and Films began the trend with “Mote Bohu Kari Neija” and became the first Odia film to be shot entirely in Singapore and Bangkok at a mammoth budget of `2.50 crore. “You can save `10 lakh in 10 days if you are shooting abroad,” says Gyanaranjan Priyadarshan, producer of “Mote Bohu Kari Neija.” The movie starring Sidhhant Mohapatra, Dipan and Aishwarya Pathi, was shot in Bangkok, where a producer can cut costs to a large extent.
Veteran filmmaker Prashant Nanda then shot some scenes of his latest venture “Thookool” in Muscat.
Compare the costs of shooting in Odisha as well as domestic locations and filming abroad. In Odisha, producers do not pay for travel or accommodation but pay for a huge unit, the locales or set. “Hiring a studio or a bungalow is very expensive in the State,” says director Ashok Pati. All the expenses add up - sometimes going up to `1 lakh a day which is saved when shot abroad. Within Odisha, time is also lost everyday as stars travel from one location to another. Last but not the least, while shooting in foreign locations, stars cannot afford to throw tantrums because they are not on home ground.
In terms of shooting too, producers are relieved to have a single window clearance and not grapple with the endless bureaucracy that is a staple scourge here. Abroad, they pay for the airfare and accommodation, but for only a handful.
Besides, the units abroad are smaller.
“Shooting abroad is cheaper or, at the most, costs as much as at home,” says Nanda whose last venture “Jianta Bhuta” (The Living Ghost) fetched him national and international awards besides seven state film awards. “When we shoot in India, the unit has around 100 people. But abroad, we take a crew of 18 to 20. It takes less money to travel to Muscat than to Mumbai,” he adds.
What is spent by way of travel is recovered with quality work in a short time. Moreover, tourism agencies in the foreign countries go out of their way by offering special packages on travel and stay. The cheapest shooting zones are the Asian countries such as Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius and Thailand.
“The tourism departments show you around, recommend good locations, and are very enterprising when it comes to providing infrastructure for the shoot. They help with everything right from cooking and cleaning facilities to arranging for dollies and cranes. If I had to shoot here, I would have to lug all that heavy equipment while going on a location hunting or on a shoot. So shooting abroad works out much easier,” Priyadarshan adds.
Flim-makers can also operate without constant interruptions. “If I take a big star out on the road anywhere here, there’ll be 2,000 to 5,000 people crowding the scene,” he adds. “That’s not a problem we face outside.”
For the audience
Cost apart, filmmakers feel, as the Oriya audience has been exposed to Telugu, Bengali, Bollywood cinema, now-a-days they’re demanding a higher standard of filmmaking. They want to see the same all-singing, all-dancing, three-and-a-half-hour extravaganza but in a slicker format. “Everyone has seen Bhubaneswar or other parts of the State a million times. Even snow-capped mountains of Himachal Pradesh have become common. Films today are like travel shows,” feels Nanda.
Noted director Susant Mani echoes the same feelings. “While the audience tastes do not necessarily warrant an outdoor foreign shoot every time, it does give the audience a welcome break from the studio looks and locations which can become monotonous. While an outdoor shoot does not effect the rating points upwards or downwards, it does give a different look and feel to the film,” he feels.
Pati says the trend has a pay off for the filmmakers and host nation as well. The locations used to become popular tourist destinations for Odia travellers.
Experimentation or creative collaboration, call it what you will.
With both sides wooing each other, this story seems to have all the makings of an Ollywood style “happy ending”.