Serbia & Tunisia: New Destinations for Indian filmmakers

Discovering Bollywood’s New Switzerlands
/ Film
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Exotic locations have always been preferred by Indian filmmakers

Exotic locations have always been preferred by Indian filmmakers

The romance between Indian film industry and unexplored foreign destinations is not new. With the silver screen being the perfect platform to woo Indian travellers, tourism boards are geared up to tap the industry. Latest entrants in the long list are Serbia and Tunisia!

The beautifully swaying monocoloured georgette saree of Sridevi, the veteran Indian actress, against the backdrop of virgin Swiss green pastures in the 1989 film Chandni, left millions of film buffs mesmerised. Two decades later, the mantra of carpe diem was carried forward with Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) which enticed the youth to break free from the shackles of monotony and pack their bags for a vacation in Spain! A trend started by Raj Kapoor, one of the most celebrated actors and directors of that time, with his 1964 film Sangam, has since been carried forward by successive directors. From Yash Chopra’s cinematic love affair with Switzerland to Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha (2015) romanticising the French island of Corsica, the Indian audience has always accepted the new film destinations with an open heart. This tried and tested formula has been adopted by several destinations including Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mauritius, USA, New Zealand and Australia in the past. Latest entrants  in the list are Serbia, a landlocked nation in Europe and Tunisia, the lesser explored destination in Northern Africa.

Reeling Serbia

Indian films are known for their bold experimentations with the shooting locations. Their quest for adding new backdrops was cherry on the cake for Serbia, a rather new destination for the Indian market.

Speaking to India Outbound, Vladimir Maric, the ambassador of Serbia to India exclaims, “Tourism and films go hand in hand. Films are the best advertisement any country can have!”

Home to a vast stretch of unruffled hills, tranquil monasteries, and exuberant culture, Serbia is playing all its cards right to get into the good books of the industry. The European nation with an arresting beauty struck the right chords with the Indian silver screen by introducing 25 pc rebate for films, film makers can qualify for which only after a minimum expenditure of INR 2-3 million. The visa free regime, allowing Indians to stay in and explore Serbia for 30 days has added to the fascination and the ease of opting for the country.

As many as 10 Indian film projects have been shot in Serbia so far including the South Indian hits Kaatru Veliyidai (Amidst The Air, 2017) and Chekka Chivantha Vaanam (The Crimson Red Sky, 2018) both of which were directed by veteran Mani Ratnam.

“It has been a great experience. We are looking forward to work with the Indian film industry again,” adds Maric.

One of the biggest hits shot in Serbia was Uri: The Surgical Strike (2019), an Aditya Dhar directorial film based on the much-debated surgical strike staged by the Indian army in Pakistan, which was later declared tax-free in many Indian states. The scenes from Kashmir shown in the film have all been shot in Serbia. What makes the shooting destination unique from other European shooting locations is the availability of excellent post production facilities as well as the talented pool of local artists ready to pose for the camera. As many as 700 Serbian extras pooled in for the shoot of this iconic film.

“We are very proud of every new film that we serviced in Serbia, and Uri has been the biggest accomplishment so far. Production demanded enormous efforts regarding production design, stunts and SFX. The production designers once again confirmed their talent and professionalism. Sets made in Serbia managed to portray Kashmir very successfully. This would be impossible without the great support of the Serbian local authorities, the Serbian Army and the ministry of defence, which once again demonstrated their expertise and readiness to cooperate with foreign film producers at any time,” shared Djurdja Vitorovic, production manager of Uri during a panel at India International Film Tourism Conclave, last year in Mumbai.

The Tourism Board of Serbia says it will continue to tap the Indian market through more film projects in the coming time.

Tuning into Tunisian lens

Another such destination set to woo the Indian film industry is Tunisia, already a celebrated shooting location for Hollywood. Following the footsteps of its European counterpart Serbia, Tunisia has not only eased its regulations but is welcoming the Indian film industry with open arms. With gorgeous landscapes, a tremendous infrastructure, and the availability of experienced technicians, Tunisia ticks all the checkboxes of Indian film makers. No requirement of visa in Tunisia for Indians adds to the advantage.

“Indian movies are very famous in Tunisia. I know Indian films are looking for new destinations and Tunisia is ideal for it due to five reasons- landscape, climate, infrastructure, finances, and a lot of competence for shooting with a team. Plus, it doesn’t get you more than a week to get you all the authorisation in Tunisia,” Nejmeddine Lakhal, the ambassador of Tunisia to India told India Outbound.

Though any major project is not being shot here, the determination of the tourism board stands unshaken.

“One thing you have to do is connect with the movie production team in Tunisia and they will do anything for you. If you need equipment, technician, tourist certificate from the army that will take one week to 12 days,” assured Lakhal.

The growing cinematic relationship between India and Tunisia is reflected in the numerous Tunisian film festivals organised in many Indian cities including Madurai, Kochi, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and Chandigarh. Tunisia was even the focus country at Kolkata film festival two years ago.

0With the INR 183 billion (USD 2.5 billion), the Indian film industry is definitely an attractive package for any destination to try and lure. Not just the new kids on the block, but even well-established destinations like the United States of America are also keen on rediscovering their cinematic relationship with India. With even web television series like the Netflix production Sacred Games taking to foreign destinations, the scope for this cinematic trade stands vast.

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