While Switzerland and Spain have been a few of the favourite shooting spots; the beauty, ease and economic aspects of Eastern Europe have helped the filmmakers to expand their choice.
The final shooting schedule of a big ticket film from Yashraj Studios, Bollywood’s original film banner, was locked and sealed. Air tickets were booked and within few days the crew including Aamir Khan was to fly to Kashmir to shoot the final sequences of the film. However, a conflict in the terrorism sensitive region dampened their plan and the schedule was scrapped absolutely. The film was Fanaa and the year was 2006. It compounded director Kunal Kohli’s problems, who needed snowfall and a backdrop of white Kashmir valley to complete his film. It was then that a few of his friends informed him of locations that resembled parts of Kashmir.
A team was dispatched to the said location and within days the location was given a go ahead. It was Zakopane in Poland. And that’s how the tryst of Indian film industry began with Eastern Europe.
For the past decade, the locations of Eastern Europe have found significant attention among Indian filmmakers. Big banners like Yash Raj Films, Nadiadwala Grandsons or Ajay Devgn Productions have been slowly and steadily been choosing locations spread to the right of the ‘iron curtain’ for their films. The locations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are yet to be explored but Poland, Romania and Hungary are steadily on their radar. The latest to join the bandwagon is Bulgaria. After having roamed North America to lock locations for his upcoming film, Ajay Devgan ultimately picked Bulgaria. The exercise meant wastage of precious time and money for Ajay Devgan, the producer. The urge to be precise in terms of its location forced Ajay Devgan to postpone the shoot of the film and thus Canada’s loss was Bulgaria’s gain.
Indian films gravitate towards scenic beauty and such locations in Eastern Europe are within close distance. Be it pristine, gushing streams, wide roads, roadside cafes, snow clad peaks, structured townships – they have it all coupled with a remarkable weather which is a far cry from the Indian subcontinent.
Salman Khan’s affinity
The trend could be attributed to director duo Radhika Rao and Vinay Sapru who dispatched the unit of the Salman Khan starrer Lucky to St Petersburg, Russia for a long schedule. Though the film was a disaster when released, the snow clad locations and the ethereal beauty of the backdrop caught everyone’s attention. It was something that the Indian viewers were seeing for the first time and the result was a foregone conclusion – viewers were mesmerised. Eastern Europe’s appeal was so strong that the very same year Salman Khan forced director Priyadarshan to shoot few of his film’s sequences in locations of Romania. The film Kyunki had its most part filmed in Bucharest. Salman Khan went there again merely to shoot a song for his film Jai Ho. And finally the urge of the location was so irresistible to the man that his last blockbuster Kick saw its complete second half shot in locations of Warsaw, Poland. The filmmakers were keen on shooting the schedule in London first but visa hassles forced Salman and team to relocate the second half in Warsaw. In an interview to a magazine Salman Khan about his experience of shooting in Poland mentioned, “Polish people are very understanding and friendly. I would love to come again and again even to chill out from my heavy commitments.”
Commenting on their experience of shooting for a long schedule in Warsaw, coactor Jacqueline Fernandes said, “We spent time walking the streets, visiting museums and cycling. Salman encouraged us to see these places, there’s so much history there! Weather’s good and people in the city do not interfere with shoots. It was a wonderful experience with very little stress.”
Jacqueline also went on to shoot another film called Bangistan in the neighbouring city Krakow. The plot of Bangistan, starring Riteish Deshmukh, features Krakow as a city and utilises it’s charms beyond it’s visually pleasant locales. Riga with its old world charm and a tinge of the cold war era provided Saif Ali Khan the perfect setting for his espionage thriller Agent Vinod. Saif stayed there for few days to shoot for his film that crisscrossed across Europe and Riga provided him the idyllic location for the narration of his story.
Beyond the beauty
Apart from the scenic beauty, filmmakers have also been flocking to Eastern Europe for other reasons. The foremost reason for them is the cost effective nature of the locations. With ample support from film board divisions of the concerned governments getting permissions is easy as cutting butter with a knife. The local crew can be hired for a much lower price as compared to American or West European locations. Karan Anshuman, the director of Bangistan locked Poland for his film’s setting because of its cracking visuals. “The place has an interesting history and culture that was integrated into the film. It also has some cracking visual which has never been seen before in Bollywood,” says Anshuman.
To make things more comprehensible Eastern Europe is the new Switzerland for Indian filmmakers. The best part being that the concerned governments present in this part of Europe too have been approaching filmmakers and other film board divisions to come and shoot in their countries. Poland should definitely be appreciated owing to the efforts they have taken. Poland is offering some best technicians to the world cinema. It has bounty of experienced technical film crew apart from state-of-the-art studios. The postproduction work of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, for instance was done at a studio based out of Poland. And now Bollywood is currently witnessing a new trend. The cinematography for films like Mardani and Detective Byomkesh Bakshi was done by competent cinematographers in Poland. The mandarins of Yash Raj Films talent scouted Artur Zurawski and Nikos Andritsakis from Poland and Greece respectively.
The production company owned by leading actor and producer Farhan Akhtar recently completed a film, a major portion of which again was shot in Krakow and Warsaw. Bangistan featuring Riteish Deshmukh will hit theatres later this year.
The process of shooting a film in Eastern Europe is now so conducive that the production company has to ferry just the acting crew there and rest of the technical staff is sourced from the concerned country itself. Another reason for the love of opting Eastern Europe is the ease of travelling. Being small countries with myriad options it saves immense time and money to producers unlike India where travelling with a crew from Mumbai to a location in Eastern India is an arduous task in itself.
The locations of Eastern Europe are by and large virgin locations. Anshuman says, “The locations are not exposed much in Bollywood and cost is another factor that is helping filmmakers to shoot there.”
Shah Rukh Khan recently finished a schedule in Dubrovnik. So impressed was the actor with the city and the local staff that he took to Twitter to announce his love for the city and the local staff.
FILMS THAT WERE SHOT IN EASTERN EUROPE
Lucky: No Time For Love – Russia
Kyunki – Romania
Agent Vinod – Latvia
Jai Ho – Romania
Kick – Poland
FILMS UNDER PRODUCTION THAT WILL SHOW EASTERN EUROPE
Shivay – Bulgaria
Bangistan – Poland
Fan – Croatia
Dudhwa National Park, Uttar Pradesh