Delhi debates capital role
By Patrick Frater
Wed, 01 August 2012, 15:23 PM (HKT)
Whether Delhi can become a new film-making capital was the topic of a two day debate at the Cinefan Film Festival this week.
While the government seat may be an unlikely rival to Mumbai and its dominant 'Bollywood', the possibility attracted government ministers and leading film-makers including directors Shekhar KAPUR, Imtiaz ALI, Anurag KASHYAP, Dibakar BANERJEE, screenwriter Prasoon JOSHI, producer Bobby BEDI, Rome festival boss Marco MÜLLER and Nina LATH GUPTA, head of the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC).
In recent years Delhi has increasingly been the setting for Bollywood films including Delhi-6 दिल्ली ６ (2009) and Delhi Belly दिल्ली बेली (2011), and film-maker Rakeysh Omprakash MEHRA (Rang de basanti (2006)) is now building a studio in the city. But speakers at the initial seminar session spoke even-handedly, rather than as champions for the city.
Neville TULI, head of the Osian's auction house and the Delhi-based Cinefan's principal benefactor, said that Delhi is the cultural capital of India and has richer architectural heritage than many ancient European cities. But he also warned against the damage to monuments inflicted by film-making. Tuli said that cinema should complement and expand Delhi's cultural offerings, rather than attempt to be its driver.
Delhi minister Dr Kiran Walia said that making Delhi more of a film hub would be welcomed "with heart and passion" by government – as long as nobody asks for precious land.
Bedi trumpeted Delhi's relative ease of use for film crews – easier permits, less crowded streets compared with Mumbai – but said that being a great location is not the same being as a 'film city'. He proposed that Delhi be seen as a hub for all the cinema industries of India's northern states. "All the representative offices [of the states] are here, so if we are going to have a [national] film commission it can be assembled here in Delhi."
Kapur, who quit the city some 40 years ago, delivered a reality check by insisting that Delhi's challenge is a skills and financial question. "Delhi faces the same problem as Singapore, it needs to attract creative people," he said, explaining that it might require the kind of stimulation that comes from a criminal underworld and late night drinking dens.
"We do not have such a price advantage as we might imagine. The biggest competitor to Mumbai these days is currently London," Kapur said, citing the UK's 25% location shooting rebate scheme. "Give us a 25% tax break here and everyone will shoot here."
When it is considered that the NFDC and the National School of Drama are both Delhi-based institutions, and that students regularly depart Delhi for Mumbai and Bollywood, expanding Delhi's film potential may in part be a matter of reversing the outflow of talent.
Untangling India's messy system of shooting permits could be a boon to Delhi – and other locations – as the bureaucratic problem adds to the time and cost of shooting in India and is said to drive many crews to better-organised foreign locations such as London, New York or South East Asia.
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