Madhya Pradesh a new hotspot for film, OTT shoots?

PTI, Oct 16, 2022, 2:51 PM IST

A host of attractive locations, diversity in destinations and friendly government policies – all these factors have combined to help Madhya Pradesh emerge as a preferred choice for film shoots for the showbiz industry. Sequences of over 175 movies, OTT (over the top) series and television shows, including some international projects, have been shot in various parts of the state in the past five years, according to government officials.

From feature films to shows on fast-expanding OTT platforms to TV programmes, Madhya Pradesh – located in the heart of India – has become a popular shoot destination.

Producers from all genres, not only from India but also abroad, are evincing a keen interest in narrating their stories with a backdrop of the central state. From its first-ever movie shoot in 1952, the state, which boasts of numerous picturesque locations, historical sites, wildlife hotspots and pilgrimage centres, has come a long way in its journey on the road of film tourism.

The state government saw immense potential in promoting film tourism and started framing policies and providing incentives to movie and show producers who are now making a beeline for Madhya Pradesh, said the officials. “The number of movies and series shot for TV and OTT platforms in Madhya Pradesh from big production houses was less earlier, possibly due to absence of a policy for the showbiz industry. “But now things have changed and sequences of more than 175 projects had been shot during the past five years alone at various locations in the state,” said Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Principal Secretary, Culture and Tourism.

He said shoots for five movies/TV series, including Vistaram, Mahal, Hariom and Buffer Zone got underway in MP just last month. Not only producers from Bollywood or the southern film industry, even international directors have shown immense interest in shooting their projects in various locations in the state. Sequences of Lion, a film directed by Australian Garth Davis which won several international awards, was shot in some locations in MP. The 2016 Oscar-nominated movie is about a young Indian boy who gets separated from his brother and mother when he ends up 1,000 miles away from his home and then gets adopted by an Australian family. Other international projects shot in MP include TV series Shantaram (The Bear)’ and Mira Nair-directed television drama A Suitable Boy. Nair’s movie – Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love – was shot in the state two decades back.

English movies like White Tiger of Pivot Pictures LLC, California LA and The Lovers, directed by Roland Joffé, were also shot in the state during the past five years, another official said. Principal Secretary Shukla said Madhya Pradesh has now acquired an image of a film-friendly state at national and international forums. Popular destinations like Orchha, Mandu, Maheshwar, Ujjain and Chanderi and unexplored areas surrounding Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Gwalior, Raisen and Sehore have become favourite shootings spots for film-makers, the senior bureaucrat said. Sequences of movies and TV projects like Rajneeti, Asoka, Sherni, Gullak, Panchayat, Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya, Durgamati, Chhori, Nirmal Pathak Ki Ghar Wapsi, Janhit Me Jari, Motichoor Chaknachoor, Kalank, Gangajal-2, Revolver Rani, Tevar, Dabangg-2, Bajirao Mastani, Mohenjo Daro, Y’amla Pagla Deewana, Stree, Sui Dhaga and Padman besides several other prominent showbiz projects have been shot in the state.

About 100 films, web series and TV shows have been shot in various destinations across MP during the past two years despite disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the officials said.

The journey of film-making in areas under Madhya Pradesh (which came into existence in 1956) started when sequences of legendary Dilip Kumar’s movie Aan(1952) were shot in the picturesque Narsinghgarh town in Rajgarh district, an industry insider said. Since then, more than 500 showbiz projects have been shot in the state, which has been receiving accolades for emerging as a top venue for film shootings in the country, he said. Madhya Pradesh was declared the “Most Film Friendly State” in the country at the 68th National Film Awards in July this year.

Bollywood actor Mukesh Tiwari, who has worked in over 200 movies, including in Telugu, Kannada and Tamil languages, told PTI that Madhya Pradesh still has many unexplored locations. “Friendly people and easy administrative approvals, besides unexplored beautiful locations make Madhya Pradesh a perfect destination for movie-makers. The rich theatre culture in Bhopal provides a pool of quality local actors like in Mumbai,” Tiwari, a native of MP’s Sagar city, said. Tiwari, who started his film career by playing ‘Jagira’ in Rajkumar Santoshi’s China Gate (1998), said though several films have been shot in locations around Bhopal, Indore, Maheshwar and Omkareshwar, the Bundelkhand region still remains largely unexplored. He said well-known filmmaker Shyam Benegal, considered the pioneer of parallel cinema, had shot sequences of a movie, Samar, in Bundelkhand two decades back.

According to the officials, an online portal has been set up by the film facilitation cell, which works under Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, for single window clearance for shoot permissions. The state government also provides subsidies to film-makers, up to Rs two crore depending on fulfillment of different criteria, to encourage more producers and directors to bring their projects to MP, under the Film Tourism Policy-2020, an official said.

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