The author is a Lucknow-based independent journalist with over 25 years experience in media - print, television and digital. He started his career with the Pioneer, working later with The Times of India, Newstime, Hyderabad and Tehelka. He also worked with Zee News and ETV (UP). He was Editor (U.P.) of bhaskar.com and later founded Newstrack.com.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister is a no-nonsense rabid Hindutva pusher, so he will have nothing to do with Padmavati being screened in his state. It could have spelt a remarkable setback to the state’s ambition of becoming a major film hub. But just when the row over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s controversial movie was at its peak, a prominent Bollywood Director met Yogi Adityanath and offered to make another film with correct historical perspective. And if the script is cleared aforehand, this could happen
Bollywood filmmakers have made a beeline in Uttar Pradesh after the state government announced its new film policy in 2015, under the dispensation of former CM Akhilesh Yadav. The new policy has also created a buzz among international moviemakers when a delegation of UP Film Development Council (UPFDC) showcased it during the Cannes Film Festival.
Officials at the Film Bandhu, a government agency for promoting films, and UPFDC are elated over the response from the international film community after UP’s participation. Filmmakers from France, Germany, Australia, Canada, UK and China have shown keen interests and sent their queries for productions.
Uttar Pradesh has played an important role in the growth of the Bollywood film industry in the country. It has given renowned actors, producers, music directors, script and story writers to the film industry. At one time, lyricists from Uttar Pradesh dominated Bollywood with every second song written by them.
The state’s exquisite architectural treasures and rich cultural heritage has given producers perfect locations to shoot some of their box-office blockbusters in Uttar Pradesh. Junoon, Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Umrao Jaan, Gadar to quote a few from yesteryears.
Though the state’s first Film Policy was announced way back in 1999 to woo Bollywood producers but it failed to give the required impetus to filmmaking in Uttar Pradesh. The policy was revised in 2015 by then Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to make it more industry-friendly, and several sops were offered to directors for shooting their films in the state locations.
The new incentive-rich policy drew laurels from Bollywood producers and they made a beeline to shoot their films in the state. The new film policy offers Rs 1 crore subsidy to any director/producer if 50 per cent of his/her first film is shot in the state.
On the second film, the new policy increases the subsidy to 1.25 crore if 50 per cent film is shot in the state and 2.25 crore if 75 per cent of the film is shot in the state for the third film.
Similarly, for the third, fourth, fifth and onward movies, it adds Rs 25 lakhs to 50 lakhs in the subsidy for each category. For the award-winning national and international producers and directors, the new policy has added additional Rs 50 lakhs or each category of subsidy.
Besides the subsidy, the new film policy offers a number of other sops and financial benefits that make Uttar Pradesh one of the most favoured destinations for Bollywood producers to shoot their films in the state.
An additional subsidy of up to 50 lakhs is given if they hire artists and technicians from Uttar Pradesh. To top it all, Rs 50 lakhs additional subsidy is offered on films based on scripts revolving around state’s history, cultural theme, heritage and tourist places.
The Film City in Noida Sector 16 has already come up as one of the most advanced centres for filmmaking and processing in the country. Many producers now look at Noida Film City for processing their films and documentaries ever since the state government’s offer to give 50 per cent or a maximum of Rs 50 lakh subsidy to films processed in Noida Flim City labs.
Noida Film City shot into global fame when British producer Simon Wright and Indian moviemaker Sheetal Talwar to shoot his film, based on Swiss Author Johanna Spyri’s children Book ‘Heidi’, at Noida locations. It was the first international film which was shot in Noida Film City.
What attracts the Bollywood moviemakers to Uttar Pradesh is the state government’s decision to give entertainment tax exemption on films shot in the state from 50 per cent for first six months to 100 per cent for a year. Former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s government had declared over a dozen Bollywood movies as tax-free during his tenure.
Akshay Kumar’s Toliet –Ek Prem Katha was not only made tax-free by present Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath but the Bollywood Actor was made Brand Ambassador of Bharat Swachchta Mission in Uttar Pradesh.
Besides subsidy and cash incentives, the new Film Policy also offers 25 per cent rebate on boarding and lodging of film units in hotels owned by the UP Tourism department and extended cheapest lodging facilities to film units at PWD/Irrigation/Forest department guest houses.
For megastars, actors, actresses and producers, the state government has offered its airstrips in over 12 districts of the state for the landing of their private and chartered jets free of cost.
For infrastructure development and upgradation of shooting locations, the state government has already set up a Film Fund which will be generated from ticket sales. Rs 0.50 paisa would be contributed to the Film Fund from each ticket sold. “We have created a corpus and the fund is now being used for development of infrastructure and creating worldclass filmmaking facilities in Uttar Pradesh,” claimed Avanish Awasthi, Principal Secretary, Information.
The Deputy Chief Minister and Entertainment Tax Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya has announced a package for revival of closed cinema halls in the state. As many as 709 cinema halls in Uttar Pradesh were closed following the invasion of Multiplex culture and increasing tax burden. He has also accorded industry status to cinema halls for the growth of the film industry in the state.
Uttar Pradesh offers myriad natural shooting locations to national and international filmmakers. Besides Varanasi, Lucknow Agra and Chambal ravines, the state government is now developing new shooting locations at places which were hitherto unknown to attract Bollywood directors.
Efforts of the state government in giving a new thrust to filmmaking in Uttar Pradesh has shown encouraging results. About 30 movies were shot in the last two and half years in Uttar Pradesh. Not only Bollywood but internationally-acclaimed moviemakers have shown their interest to shoot their films in Uttar Pradesh.
Australian filmmaker Christopher Simon plans to shoot his next film in Kanpur and Lucknow. Canadian director Mahi Kaur, UK’s Shirali Mercier and Emilia Wileman have also sent their proposals to shoot their new films at locations in Varanasi.
Even before Bollywood filmmakers started shooting occasional films in Uttar Pradesh, and Bhojpuri Film Industry has set a foothold in Eastern Uttar Pradesh. Popularly known as ‘Bhojiwood’, the regional Film industry was set-up accidentally by Bhojpuri actor Nazir Hussain, hailing from Ghazipur district inUttar Pradesh.
As Avijit Ghosh puts it in his book on Bhojpuri Cinema, Hussain’s chance meeting with the country’s First President Rajendra Prasad at a function in Mumbai encourage him to make the country’s first Bhojpuri movie: ‘Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo’.
The film was released in 1963 and met with a great success at the box office. It gave birth to a new film industry in the country which, at times, ran parallel to Bollywood and left behind Tollywood in terms of number of production, hits and popularity among audience.
But despite that instant hit, the Bhojpuri film industry has remained in its nascent stage. Although about 20 movies were produced between 1963 and 1976 but the new Industry could not make a firm foothold in filmmaking. The first colour movie in Bhojpuri, Dangal in 1977, revived Bhojpuri films, with Sujit Kumar becoming the star of the industry.
But soon the Bhojpuri film enterprise landed in wrong hands. Those who had no knowledge of Bhojpuri culture and its rich traditions started investing in the industry to mint money. As a result, vulgarity took over classic and message-driven filmmaking. Item songs and double-meaning vulgar dialogues brought the industry down again.
Bhojiwood bounced back with Manoj Tiwari-starrer ‘Sasura Bada Paisewala in 2004. Overnight Manoj became a star. The rise of Ravi Kishan and Dinesh Lal Yadav Nirhua took the industry to a new height and about 500 films were produced during this period.
But post 2008, Bhojiwood saw a continuous decline in its popularity and good filmmaking. Multiplex culture, closure of cinema halls, action-packed Bollywood re-makes of southern movies, cultural and generation changes among Bhojpuri speaking youngsters saw the industry going down again. But in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bhojpuri film industry is still making waves. From Gorakhpur to Kushinagar one would be surprised to find that even a chaiwala is a Bhojpuri artist and has worked in one or the other movie.
Every fifth girl and boy in eastern Uttar Pradesh aspires to act in a Bhojpuri film or makes an attempt to become a singer. Many of them have met with great success like Manoj Tiwari and Ravi Kishan etc.
The Bhojpuri film industry is only 55 years old but its rise in the film industry has been phenomenal. Manoj Tiwari became a celebrity and is now a politician. Hailing from Jaunpur district, Ravi Kishan is the Shah Rukh Khan of Eastern UP. Manoj and Ravi are only actors from the Bhojpuri Film industry who were given lead roles in Bollywood blockbusters.
Though Manoj has become BJP Lok Sabha member and party’s Delhi unit head but still he is making efforts to bring back the lost glory of Bhojiwood. He recently met with the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to revive his plan for setting up a Bhojpuri Film Centre at Varanasi on the lines of Ramoji Film City. Bhojpuri film star Ravi Kishan too called on him to save the regional film industry.
All is not lost. The state government under Yogi Adityanath, who hails from Gorakhpur and speaks fluent Bhojpuri, is making plans to revive the industry again. Both Tiwari and Ravi have been requested to submit a plan for the revival of Bhojiwood.Though the controversy over Padmavati and Yogi Adityanath government’s tough stand against the movie and its producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali has caused a setback to the growth of the film industry in Uttar Pradesh but officials at Film Bandhu and UPFDC claimed that it was ‘temporary’ and the state will continue to roll out red carpet to anyone willing to shoot their films in Uttar Pradesh.
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