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A dream reinvigorated


Yet again, the fifth time round, there are talks about having a film city in Bangalore. But this time the promise seems for real

PLANS AFRESH The Kannada film industry has grandiose plans of a state-of-the art film city. Even after several aborted attempts, it hopes that this time it will be a successful one; Ravichandran's model plan of Sandalwood, the Kannada film city, which he had handed over to the then Chief Minister H.D. Deve Gowda

The long cherished dream of Kannada Film Industry to have its own film city was back in circulation again, with the Government's decision to constitute a nine-member committee to study the various aspects of developing a film city at Hesaraghatta. The issues will be looked in to by N. Subba Rao, Chairman, Karnataka Madhyama Academy. He will take care of planning, financial viability and the agencies to be involved in implementing the project. According to the Minister for Information, B. Shivaram, the committee will submit its report within a month.

The initiative has once again raised the hopes of Kannada filmmakers who are facing problem to shoot their films, due to lack of infrastructure. Their grouse is that other south Indian language films are sound both technically and visually as they have film cities of their own. Despite being a rapidly growing and happening city, Bangalore has not had a film city, unlike, Chennai, Hyderabad and Tiruvananthapuram. Producers and directors of Kannada films often complain about difficulties they are facing while shooting in outdoor locations and are thereby forced to opt for film cities of neighbouring states. In view of this, they are craving for a film city of their own since the last few decades. However, pinning hopes on the Government's proposal to develop a film city in Bangalore, is not new to the Kannada film industry, as it has been a witness to several aborted attempts earlier.

However, what is it that has prompted the Government reconsider the languishing project of developing a film city in Hesaraghatta, while it has already permitted Kannada producers to shoot 25 per of their films outside the state. According to sources, the requisition of the Department of Science and Technology to sanction 100 acres, out of the 302 acres of existing land for developing a science city, is what has forced the Ministry of Information to reexamine the possibility of developing film city.

Two decades old

The Karnataka Film Industry Development Corporation (KFIDC) started talking about the film city project nearly two decades ago. But the plans of KFIDC did not materialise, as it seemed a faulty concept.

The hopes of developing a film city rekindled, when the state Government appointed an expert committee, headed by the veteran journalist, V.N. Subba Rao. The committee, which submitted its report on March 1, 1994, dealt in detail on the need to develop a film city in Bangalore. After visiting the film cities in the neighbouring states, the committee felt the need to conceive the film city project on a more professional basis. The committee observed that the concept of the film city is by and large, accepted both by the Government and the film industry.

The committee noted that the 360-acre plot (10 acres to Adarsha Film Institute and 10 acres to Nrityagram and 25 acres to The Department of Technical Education, what remains is 302 acres), languishing in Hesaraghatta, is a flat stretch of land with picturesque surroundings. At one point of time the committee thought that it would perhaps be more advisable for the proposed Bangalore Film City also to have a verdant forestland as in Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram at its disposal. But the committee felt that while the Corporation made efforts to get a suitable forestland, should at the same time draw up a firm plan for developing the Hesaraghatta land itself. Taking the Kanteerava Studio into consideration, the committee felt that the film city project would have to be differently tailored so that it does not involve any sizeable investments on the part of the Government and that the project itself should be conceived not on a short term basis.

According to sources in the film industry, the state Government at one point of time made it clear that it could not take up the project by itself as the film city would cost crores of rupees and the state Government could not invest that much on an entertainment industry. Undefeated, leading film producers and industry people drew up another proposal, three years ago, where by they would take land on lease from the Corporation, put up structures, both permanent and semi-permanent and operate it themselves. The Corporation set up a committee, when C.R. Narayanappa was its chairman to formulate guidelines and weigh the proposals. As per the committee's recommendations, proposals put forth by actor-director-producer, V. Ravichandran and music director Hamsalekha together were approved.

Ambitious project

Ravichandran, industry's eternal optimist and gambler, prepared a detailed plan of his dream film city at an estimated cost of Rs. 50 crore and called it Sandalwood, like Hollywood and Bollywood. His ambitious project for 50 acres involved the setting up of a railway station, underground swimming pool, forest, a village, various types of houses from slums to posh mansions, streetscapes of different traditional developments of the state, landscapes, artificial falls, water bodies, rest rooms and recreation facilities. He also handed over the project report to the then Chief Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda at the muhurat of his ambitious film Sepoy and also presented a model of his dream "city". Needless to say, it failed. The film city project was in cold storage for a long time, till the techno-savvy director-producer, S.V. Rajendra Singh Babu floated the idea of developing the film city in Mysore in an area of 200 acres of land. He also disclosed that Sandesh Nagaraj, president of Mysore Urban Development Corporation in 2002 assured to sanction the land for the purpose. In the meanwhile, Channapatna MLA and film producer, Yogishwar also tried to develop a film city near Bidadi and the famous art-director Nitish Roy visited Bangalore in this connection. Interestingly, none of these proposals came up for discussion. With Minister for Information, B. Shivaram taking over several rounds of discussion have taken place. Shivaram told The Hindu that the Government, this time, is serious about developing the film city and will make earnest efforts on getting the report from Subba Rao committee.

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