Can Delhi become the next Bollywood destination after Mumbai? The Hindu spoke to architects, artists and bureaucrats...

While Mumbai is the nucleus of the Hindi film industry, many a Mumbaikar who come to shoot in Delhi are fascinated by its cleanliness, greenery, infrastructure as well as its historical significance. Many of them have wondered if Delhi could become the next big centre for the film industry.

In an interview to The Hindu some five years ago, actor Shah Rukh Khan expressed his desire to see Delhi as the next film destination. This feeling is being shared by many associated with the industry who are regular visitors to the city. The topic was even discussed at the 12th Osian’s-Cinefan Film Festival held in the city recently. At the fest, people from different streams unanimously agreed that provided facilities, including security, tax rebate and cinema culture, Delhi can well be the next destination for filmmakers.

Adman and lyricist Prasoon Joshi feels that Delhi can be the “best design destination”. “Delhi’s best IIT students can be hired to design a film complex. It can be made a city of films by design — be it architecture, infrastructure or film studies,” he asserts.

An earlier experiment with Noida to create a film city and its successive emulation did not fetch great results though. Recalls Anuradha Prasad of BAG Films: “Noida was conceived as a film city and many producers had bought prime land to develop studios, but these were gradually given to news channels.”

Noted architect Hafeez Contractor, however, believes that architecture-wise Delhi can be a better film destination than Mumbai. “Delhi’s biggest asset is its land. As the city is growing, it is getting better infrastructure-wise. It can turn out to be better than Mumbai in terms of faster connectivity and locales. That it is a historical city is its plus point. In fact Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and Noida can prove to be next great film cities.”

Artist and architect Satish Gujral agrees with Mr. Contractor: “Delhi has become alive to architecture design and many an architect are coming up and showing great inventiveness. With this I believe that Delhi, which presently has a small role in the form of the film city in Noida, can really become the first city in India in film production.”

Most agree that having a film city in the Capital will generate employment opportunities for skilled labourers like tailors, carpenters, plumbers as also for the creative youth. Mr. Gujral adds, “If you look at the history of film production, you may find that north Indians have always made a major contribution to every side of filmmaking — story, production, acting etc. Just look at the present and the past beginning with actor/ singer K.L. Sehgal and the Prithviraj Group whose clan still continue to remain the first family of cinema.”

Uday Kumar Varma, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting points out: “Most of the National Award film makers this year are from here. It was difficult for us to choose which one to drop and which one to choose.” Neena Lath Gupta, managing director of National Film Development Corporation, suggests that given Delhi’s strong culture of documentary making, it should be groomed to become a documentary filmmaking destination.

Mr. Joshi opines, “The Capital can become the destination for serious filmmakers. Then one won’t have to fall for the federal structure that Mumbai has and actors and script writers need not be in the good books of the film stars to survive in the industry.” But filmmaker, designer and artist Muzaffar Ali begs to differ. He points out that passion is lacking in the city since the people at the top do not understand the relevance of cinema as culture.

Those who come to shoot films in Delhi complain about the problems they face for obtaining no objection certificates (NOCs) from government departments. This often discourages filmmakers to shoot here. Ms. Gupta says, “Many times the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) does not allow shooting after dusk in many buildings.”

But Ranjan Mukherjee, Officer on Special Duty to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Tajinder Khanna, argues that no freedom comes for free. “Delhi houses the President, the Prime Minister, ambassadors and heads of various States. So the police have to be on their toes. Therefore, taking NOCs from ASI if the shooting is at a protected monument, or from the police, Public Works Department, Delhi Development Authority or Urban Land Development Department if the shooting is on the roads or gardens is legitimate. These NOCs are for their security minus any excess checks and balances.”

But there are those like thespian Amal Allana, chairperson of National School of Dram, who feel Delhi should not be robbed of its current charm. Turning it into a film city will usher more chaos and congestion and it will become another Mumbai.

She says, “I am not entirely convinced that Delhi can be constructed into a film city. Cities, I believe, develop organically supporting and nurturing activity that suits its geographical location, its financial potential, its cultural preferences. Among the many reasons why Mumbai became a film city was the establishment of the commercial Parsi Theatre that was a much sought-after business opportunity. It initially reaped rich returns for its producers and theatre proprietors drawing actors, directors, writers, composers to it in search of jobs. With the coming of an alternative entertainment such as cinema, the commercial theatre in Urdu, Marathi and Gujarati collapsed, leaving all those creative artists jobless. It was natural that they would be much sought after by the new mega industry – cinema.” She also adds that an entertainment industry has to be supported by powerful business acumen as part of its infrastructural requirements.

However, Mr. Varma has good news for those who want to shift to Delhi, “Department of Tourism is preparing a booklet outlining all facilities available and a Film Facilitation Cell, and infrastructure would get built once filmmakers begin producing their films here,” he concluded.