Film City become mirage to Kannada Cinema Industry

Film City become mirage to Kannada Cinema Industry

By Muralidhara Khajane

Bengaluru: The eighty-six-year-old Kannada Cinema Industry has made it a practice to appeal to any new dispensation in the State, for developing land’s own Chitra Nagari or Film City, whenever there is a change of the government in Karnataka.

A delegation of various wings of Kannada the film industry recently met the chief minister Basavaraj Bommai and appealed him to expedite the government’s promise of developing Karnataka’s own film city, to facilitate filmmakers, who are shooting their films in Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad, in the absence of well-equipped film city, to shoot their films in Karnataka. 

Delegation is of the view that early completion of the project will help the Karnataka government earn revenue while helping the film industry become self-sustainable.

Following restrictions imposed by the Karnataka government because of a pandemic, filmmakers and teleserial makers have opted for Ramoji Film city, and both the government and the industry are losing revenue.

The recent death of a 35-year old fight master, who got electrocuted during the shooting of a Kannada film in Jogenahalli near Bidadi, has forced the Kannada film industry to stress its demand to take up the film city project on a priority basis. But, it appears, the government lacks political will in fast-tracking the film city project.

At the inaugural function of the 12th edition of the Bengaluru International Film Festival, actor Yash appealed to the Karnataka government to develop a film city on the lines of neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. 

He also detailed the plight of Kannada filmmakers, who have been forced to shoot in Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad. His contention was; setting up of film city will help the Kannada cinema industry to a larger extent, and the government can recover the investment in the form of tax.

Significant rise in production

There is a significant rise in the production of Kannada cinema over the years, and an average of 200 films are being produced in a year and the total turnover of the Kannada film industry crossed Rs.500-crore.

Film shooting is one of the major areas of film production and the shooting locations are being carefully chosen to match the requirements of the project and budget. Filmmakers depend on film cities that offer verities of readily available shooting sets.

As of now, there are four top film cities in the country, which are supplementing the needs of Indian cinema. Of the four it is Ramoji Film City, which has been developed in an area of 2000 acres is being claimed as the largest film studio complex in the world. This film city provides technologically advanced pre and post-production Labs. It is being claimed that over 40 films could be produced simultaneously in this film city.

Besides Ramoji Film City, the Mumbai Film City or Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagari, Noida Film City, and MGR Film City in Chennai is meeting the needs of the Indian film industry. Presently Karnataka has a facility, called Innovative Film City in Bidadi, near Bengaluru. It is more of a Fun-World kind of facility. It is much suited for shooting teleserial and reality shows. Karnataka’s most sought-after Big Boss reality show, being conducted by actor Sudip is being shot here.  

Four-decade old project

Though an announcement has been made by then Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde of Janata Parivar in the mid-80s planned to develop a film city at Hesaraghatta, it continued to remain on paper. 

It took two decades for S. M. Krishna, Congress Chief Minister, to revisit the project. After nearly 13 years, Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced his decision to develop a film city in his constituency-Mysuru and identified 100 acres of land for the project in Himmavu village. Later, H D Kumaraswamy, chief minister of Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) the coalition announced his decision to build a film city at his constituency-Ramanagar in his budget.

Now the BJP government in the State has shown all the indications of developing the film city. Of course, this is not the first time, BJP government showing its commitment to developing Film City. During his previous tenure, Janardhana Reddy, the then Minister for Tourism and Infrastructure in Yedduurappa’s cabinet, had announced the government’s decision to develop a film city and name it after legends of Kannada cinema, Rajkumar and Vishnuvardhan.

Earlier, few Independent film personalities have also shown interest in developing a film city in Bengaluru. In 1984, actor-producer Ravichandran had envisaged a plan to develop a film city in Bengaluru way back in 1984, even before the construction of Ramoji Film City, and presented the proposal to the government when H. D. Deve Gowda headed the Janata Dal government in Karnataka.

Recently, while the government is dilly-dallying over taking up the film city project, independent film producer Umapathi Srinivasa Gowda, who made films including Hebbuli, Robert and yet to be released Madagaja is planning to set up his own film city in 16 acres of land. Umapathi wants to have a film city in Bengaluru, to facilitate filmmakers to migrate to Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad to shoot their movies and getting revenue from the Karnataka government. He recently conducted the Bhoomi Pooja of Rs.175-crore project. The work on the project is likely to commence by the end of this year.

Interestingly, industry and political leaders are divided over the location of the film city. During JD (S) and Congress coalition government Kumaraswamy chose Ramanagar. Similarly, when Yeddyurappa planned to develop the film city at Devika Rani Roerich Estate on Kanakapura road, there was severe opposition from environmentalists and politicians. The move was dubbed as political vendetta and a threat to ecology and heritage. Two powerful lobbies representing Bengaluru and Mysuru fought bitterly for the location of the film city, making their own claims. However, actor Ravichandran has advised against fighting for the location of the film city.

In what is being viewed as a response to several appeals of the cinema industry, the BJP government is showing interest in developing the film city, besides allotting funds for the project. 

Former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa accelerated the process of expediting the project by opting for the PPP (Public, Private and Participation) model. 

The government identified 150 acres of land for the purpose. Yeddyurappa decided to take legislators, who are lobbying for a location to the location identified for setting up the film city. The BJP government’s plan is to develop the film city on the lines of Dubai Studio City in UAE- a state-of-the-art film city in the world. 

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who headed the Home Ministry in the previous dispensation earlier, promised to hold Shankusthapane (groundbreaking ceremony) shortly. But, changes in the political scenario swept the project under the carpet.

With Basavaraj Bommai taking over as the new chief minister, the Kannada film industry made a fresh appeal to him to take up the project, which is in the pipeline at the earliest. According to Gubbi Jairaj, President Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, under whose leadership a delegation of film industry met the Chief Minister, Basavaraj Bommai will shortly make an announcement on taking up the film city project shortly. He argued that; it is not possible to shoot in public places like the way it was being done earlier. Filmmakers have to depend on real locations or film cities in other cities, which involves more investment, besides being time-consuming.

Industry stakeholders are stressing the need for their very own film city, as it was never more acute than now, that is during the pandemic. Their argument is Sandalwood (colloquial reference for Kannada cinema) has suffered losses to the tune of Rs.1000-crore due to COVID-19.

Popular actor Shivarajkumar, who is leading the Kannada cinema from the front, is of the opinion that the Film City absolutely needs of the hour, considering societal development, especially in the health sector. The film city, according to him to should be at the right place and in a planned way and it should be structured as the best Chitra Nagari, with state of the art facilities.

However, the majority in the film industry are not happy with the way successive governments treating the issue of Film city. A major section of the film industry is of the opinion that proposals are one thing, but the political will is another. The successive government doesn’t seem to have intent. They have been just tossing the idea around for so many years. Successive government’s behaviour proved that the idea of developing a film city is just a gimmick.