Uttarakhand is blessed with natural beauty, picturesque locations, hilly terrain, and beautiful landscape for enormous shooting opportunities and the development of the Film industry. It is a favorite destination among the art and cinema fraternity to connect with nature amidst snowy peaks, meandering rivers, waterfalls, and dense forests.
Scores of shooting locations can add meaning to movie situations and stories. Remarkably, the Government of India awarded the ‘Most Film Friendly State’ title and Special Mention Award at the 66th National Film Awards 2017 and Best Film Tourism Destination Award in 2019. It is a natural outcome of the filmmaker’s positive feedback, film-friendly policies, and the least red-tapism.
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History of Uttarakhand Cinema
The first Garhwali feature film ‘Jagwal’ was released on May 4, 1983, at Mavalankar Hall in Delhi. Parashar Gaur produced it in an attempt to promote Garhwali culture. Although he conceived the idea in 1975, the project took off in 1982 after a lot of sarcasm, humiliation, and struggle.
The film did well with tremendous response from the Garhwali people. People traveled from far-off places to Delhi, bought tickets in black because the film was screened in a non-commercial hall. After the success of ‘Jagwal’, a long series of films were screened, such as Chwezi Bwari, Chakarchaal, Jeetu Bagdwal, Bantwaroo, Madhulee, Phulee, Pyaru Rumaal Samlaon, Udnkar, Ghar-Jawain, Kauthik, and Kabhi Sukh Kabhi Dukh. ‘Megha Aa’ was the only movie released in Kumaoni.
Uttarakhand Film Policy
The state government has formed the Uttarakhand Film Development Council (UFDC) to attract filmmakers for shooting and developing regional cinema. UFDC comprises 25 members from the film fraternity. The government has incorporated suggestions from experts and filmmakers. The policy aims at developing the region as a major tourist destination through films worldwide. Besides, Film city at Patwadangar, Nainital, and location development for outdoor and indoor shooting are the focus areas. The film city will provide production and post-production services to foreign and local filmmakers.
- Filmmakers get a single-window clearance within a timeframe of 3-4 days for shooting in Uttarakhand. It helps them obtain necessary approvals.
- The state government provides exemption on the shooting fees for all the films made in Uttarakhand.
- Hindi Filmmakers can avail of up to 1.5 crore subsidy or financing (production cost up to INR 2 Crores) provided they shoot 75% of the movie in Uttarakhand.
- Regional language films of Uttarakhand get 30% or up to 25 Lakhs (whichever is less) subsidy if the film is processed in Uttarakhand situated lab, else 25% or INR 20 Lakh (whichever is less) if the processing is done outside.
- Regional films other than Uttarakhand will get incentives for expenditure to the tune of 30 or INR 15 Lakhs (whichever is less) if 75% shooting is done in Uttarakhand and processing is done in Uttarakhand situated lab, else 25 or INR 10 Lakhs (whichever is less) if the processing is done outside the state. ₹
- GMVN (Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited) and KMVN (Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited) Guest Houses will give 50% discount to filmmakers. Thus, they will enjoy a 50% rebate in the state government accommodations.
- Movies may qualify as tax-free if their 50% outdoor shooting is done in Uttarakhand.
- Major film projects have involved the locals and generated income for them.
- The state will provide stipend of INR 25000 per year to natives for studying in Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute Kolkata and Film and Television Institute Pune.
- SGST (State GST) for five years from the date of application will be reimbursed for film production, reflectors, generators, cranes, cameras, etc.
- Residential complexes will be constructed at selected sites for technical staff, and buses will be arranged for the film units.
- Multiplex and cinema halls will have to compulsorily screen Uttarakhand regional movies at least for a week.
- To revive hilly cinema halls above 600 meters altitude, the government is going to reimburse 30% of the SGST deposited from July 1, 2017.
- Cinema halls will collect rupee 1 per ticket and deposit this amount in treasury. This Film Development Fund will be utilized on stipends, film festivals, infrastructure development, and film awards apart from giving grants to Uttarakhand regional films, Hindi movies, and other regional movies.
As a result, the state witnessed a spate in the shooting of films and TV series. Post-Uttarakhand Film Policy 2015, more than 400 films, serials, and songs were shot in the state.
Challenges and Constraints
Challenges lie in reviving closed-down cinema halls, developing film shooting locations, setting up infrastructure, and assisting regional filmmakers financially. Uttarakhand’s regional film industry has been making losses for the past few years.
The film policy came into being 15 years after the formation of Uttarakhand. Therefore, the policy needs to be implemented effectively in its entirety to support regional cinema. Moreover, the government should invest in augmenting basic facilities, infrastructure, and connectivity in remote areas so that film crews can shoot smoothly.
Shooting Opportunities in the state
Uttarakhand has always attracted filmmakers for its picturesque landscape, hilly terrain, and natural beauty. Given restrictions on international travel due to pandemic, Uttarakhand stands out as the top destination for shooting. As per standard operating procedures, indoor shooting is allowed for a maximum of 50 persons with no limitation for outdoor shooting.
Many big names of the Hindi film industry have explored Mussoorie, Dehradun, Auli, Jim Corbett National Park, Pauri, Harsil, Nainital, Haridwar, and Rishikesh as the most popular shooting destinations in Uttarakhand. Even Hollywood, Telugu, and Tamil producers are coming to shoot in the lesser-known places. Shooting locations develop into tourist spots and become a source of revenue and employment.
Film Tourism will go a long way in boosting the local economy and generating employment.