Now, Uttarakhand eyes Bollywood

Exploring avenues to put state back on its feet

Now, Uttarakhand eyes Bollywood

Film producers are beginning to invest their time and effort in shooting in the hill state.The gently cascading milky streams, meandering through rounded big and small boulders, rolling over the sensational early eighties cine star Mandakini, semiclad in an all-white attire, was typical of Raj Kapoor signature style when he was midway shooting for “Ram Teri Ganga Maili” three decades ago. The movie perhaps would still reverberate, at least with many not-so-young and even the ageing lot.

But not many would know that Raj Kapoor then chose one of the most picturesque virgin locations, Harsil in Uttarkashi in hill state Uttarakhand, to showcase the idea of his film. His choice of location today may not be faraway from flood disaster-hit areas of the hill state, but the setting still holds the same charismatic adorable appeal, like first love.

Last year’s mid-summer catastrophe in Uttarakhand, that left over 5,000 dead and property infrastructure, houses and hotels reduced to rubble, has changed much of the way the world looks at the hill state from outside. There are apprehensions and post disaster, this 13-year-old state, desires more than ever before to be caressed like a baby in the cradle seeking the mother’s hand.

A group of avantgarde young men from Uttarakhand is determined to restore much of the forgotten charm of the hill state, this time through Bollywood and its making. While tourism and pilgrimage, the two major sources of earnings for the modest people of this hill state, will take time to revive, it’s this bunch of young motley people that is putting in sincere effort to help this disaster-hit state stand on its feet by roping in Bollywood producers and movie perso­nalities to choose Uttarakhand as a film destination.
 What looked like a trying task is already bearing fruits with film producers beginning to invest their time and effort in shooting in the hill state. Satish Sharma, Managing Director of Uttarakhand Film Producers Enchanting Himalaya, the brain and spirit behind the endeavour, told Deccan Herald: “Film shoots of a number of movies, some even from Kollywood like ‘Tani Oruvan’ in Tamil meaning the “single one,” is underway at various locations of Uttarakhand. This sentiment among filmmakers is seeing a revival, finally, thank god.”

Somewhere, amid the glitz and glamour of the much-awaited event FICCI Frames held in Mumbai recently, was a subtle albeit resolute entry for the first time of the “Enchanting Himalayas”. It was the lone arcade from Uttarakhand, amid a battery of film banners from Yash Raj films to many in the topline. The annual event is held to aggrandise on the business of the film industry and to leverage strengths.

“A beginning has been made post disaster. Film producers are starting to cash in on the mystic serene locations of the hill state. The fears are unfounded or at least have been over-amplified. The state government is almost ready with its first film policy that will act as a catalyst,” Satish Sharma said.

Although forgotten, he said Uttarakhand has been a chosen location for Bollywood since long, starting with famous yesteryear flicks like “Kati Patang”, “Aap Ki Kasam”. “Salami” and the more recent ones like “Arjun Pandit”, “Koi Mil Gaya”, “Lakshya”, “Pan Singh Tomar”, “Student of the Year”, etc., that were filmed here. “The effort now is to renew the lost interest, especially after last year's disaster. The local actors are getting a chance to participate. An uptrend on the image and business front is likely,” a pragmatic Satish said.

The big plan is to involve some of the well-known celebrity faces, who have roots in Uttarakhand and can pitch in with whatever effort possible to promote the state as a film destination. Sachin Tendulkar is building his new mansion in Mussourie, the queen of hills and a place also famous as home to Ruskin Bond. Archana Puran Singh, Tom Alter, Chitrashi Rawat of “Chak De India” fame who played the tiny hockey player named Chautala, director-producer Vishal Bhardwaj, are some with roots in Uttarakhand.

Singing sensation Papon of “Barfi” fame is besotted with Uttarakhand and has also bought property here. Dharmesh Tiwari, film director and General Secretary of Cine and TV Artistes association, said there are hundreds of people from Uttara­khand working in Bollywood who can contribute to building a future roadmap provided the state govern­ment creates the situation for them to contribute.

Satish Sharma said director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra of “Rang De Basanti” and “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” fame have expressed keenness to consider places in Uttarakhand for his future ventures. UTV honcho Siddharth Roy Kapur too is exploring Uttarakhand as a shooting destination.

Producer, Guneet Monga, riding high on the success of films such as “Gangs of Wasseypur,” “Once Upon A Time In Mumbai,” “Lunch Box’” are also looking at the hill state with interest.
The government support will play a decisive role in the rearrangement of issues, from promoting Uttarakhand before Bollywood to image building. Other than its first line towns including Dehradun, Haridwar and Mussourie, do not have the requisite infrastructure or air connectivity.

Satish Sharma says: “The government, in whatever support it wants to offer to producers, needs to put its best foot forward at the time producers and their teams descend to survey locations.” Industry experts say several of the upcoming Bollywood movies that were to be filmed in Uttarakhand rece­ntly went to neighbouring Himachal Pradesh for want of government support and response.

Uma Kant Panwar, Secretary, Tourism Uttarakhand, said the government is preparing a film policy. “The synergy of efforts is sure to help Uttarakhand,” he said.

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