Commonwealth countries attract Indian filmmakers to shoot

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New Delhi, March 10 (IANS) Representatives of Commonwealth countries like New Zealand and Malta have invited filmmakers from India and from across the world to explore the landscape and beauty of their nation in their works.

On the occasion of the Commonwealth Observance Day — celebrated on the second Monday of March — a panel discussion was held here at the New Zealand High Commission to enrich and widen the scope for Commonwealth countries to attract international filmmakers for locations.

Titled ‘Filming opportunities through the Commonwealth’, the discussion highlighted the opportunities for Indian filmmakers to step out of the nation’s territory and produce movies in the 53 Commonwealth countries, including India.

National Award-winning filmmaker Nila Madhab Panda, Commonwealth Society of India (CSOI) chairperson and actress Shivani Wazir Pasrich, Acting New Zealand High Commissioner Michael Appleton and Maltese High Commissioner John Aquilina were part of the discussion.

Talking about the filming scope in the environs of New Zealand, with which India has signed a film co-production agreement in 2011, Appleton said: “Some of the world’s best films, including ‘Avatar’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ have been shot in New Zealand.

“It’s one of the world’s best places to shoot in as it has a wonderful natural landscape, which can be used for a backdrop for films. Also, our local film industry has emerged a lot.”

Some Bollywood films that have been shot in New Zealand are “Players”, “Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein”, “Om Jai Jagadish” and “I Hate Luv Storys”.

Apart from New Zealand, the other two Commonwealth countries with which India has co-production agreement are Britain and Canada.

Panda, who has directed films like “I Am Kalam”, “Jalpari: The Desert Mermaid” and “Babloo Happy Hai”, stressed on the fact that a “co-production” goes beyond sharing shooting locations.

“Indian cinema is an industry, which is self-consumed. Apart from Bollywood, we have different cinema which is made in our various states. However, since we don’t have the Kashmir that we used to have decades back (in terms of how picturesque it is), now for such sequences, filmmakers prefer travelling to countries like Switzerland and Poland.

“But that is not co-production. Co-production is about sharing stories and creativity with each other,” he said.

Maltese High Commissioner John Aquilina pointed to the filming opportunities in Malta, and said: “One of the biggest challenge that India and Malta face is that most Indian people have not heard about Malta. India, being a land of contrast, is one of the highly populated countries in the world, whereas Malta is almost equal to my pocket handkerchief.

“But, I don’t think you have to be large (in size) to be good and beautiful. Just like a diamond or a pearl is precious, a tiny place tucked in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea has a lot to offer.

“People have watched Malta’s landscapes in films like ‘Gladiator’, ‘Troy’ and ‘Captain Philips’. I hope Indian filmmakers will next look for a shooting location in our country.”

CSOI chairperson Pasrich believes “the Commonwealth represents a global forum that is vibrant and dynamic and films can help strengthen ties between the member countries”.

The 24th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will be held in Malta in November this year.

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