Why Uttar Pradesh needs a film city in Greater NOIDA after promoting one in NOIDA  

NOIDA film city has turned into a centre for newspapers and TV channels with original allottees selling away plots or having leased out the land

Why Uttar Pradesh needs a film city in Greater NOIDA after promoting one in NOIDA  

Ajay Bramhatmaj

The announcement of a film city in Greater NOIDA has set the cat among the pigeons. It has missed nobody’s attention that the Uttar Pradesh Government did not invite Anurag Kashyap and Anubhav Sinha to a meeting with chief minister Yogi Adityanath.

Although both Kashyap and Sinha have shot major portions of their films Mukkabaz, Saand Ki Aankh, Mulk and Article 15, both filmmakers have been denied the financial assistance, tax exemptions and support that earlier UP governments, especially during the tenure of Akhilesh Yadav as chief minister, were promised. Film makers complain that despite repeated trips to Lucknow, the state government has not honoured its earlier commitments. At the receiving end have been independent filmmakers believed to be critical of the political establishment.

Films have not been a priority for the Yogi since 2017. But the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput and the turmoil that followed appears to have persuaded him to try and shift the film industry from Mumbai to UP on the outskirts of Delhi. The trouble is that the film industry is not a factory that can be shifted. But the objective clearly is to provide a more conducive environment to like-minded filmmakers to produce tailor-made films.

There can be no objection, however, to such attempts made by states in the Hindi belt. Barring a film studio set up in Gaya (Bihar) by a film fanatic landlord before Independence, no such attempt appears to have been made in any other Hindi-speaking state in North India. Indeed films have largely been frowned upon in these conservative societies. Even as a few talented writers, actors etc. have carved out a place for themselves in Mumbai’s film world, back home in their states they rarely received the recognition that filmmakers, actors etc. received in states like Maharashtra, Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh-Telangana.

Indeed, in the northern states cine-culture did not grow. The film society movement as in Kerala and Bengal did not develop. The film societies and cine clubs helped hone appreciation for good films and exposed people to good cinema and world cinema. That in turn led to the growth of local talent and initiative and spawned local, film industry. It also led to films made in regional languages there.

But the Hindi-speaking states have been cinematically dry states. The few die-hard fans and talents kept moving to Calcutta, Lahore and Bombay to try their luck. It is worth keeping in mind that Hindi speaking states played no role in the development of even Hindi films.

The last two decades and a half, however, saw Uttar Pradesh taking the initiative to attract filmmakers and facilitate shootings and extending even financial help to the producers. Such support was conditional on choice of location shooting in the state and opportunities given to local talents. On a conservative estimate, around a 100 films were shot in Uttar Pradesh during the last 10 years by small and big producers. They have also naturally added to the state’s revenue.

A film city is not required to make films. Even without a film city in the state, films have been shot in Agra, Varanasi and Lucknow. At any given time, shooting of 10 to 20 films in the state is viewed as normal.

So, why does Uttar Pradesh need another film city? UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath was quite categorical in stating the objective while making the announcement in September. Mumbai, he hinted, had failed to produce films which were nationalistic enough and reflected the native culture of our people. So, the new film city would promote national sentiment and people’s aspiration for a new India.

The campaign to describe the Mumbai film industry as anti-Hindu, anti-national and controlled by the underworld and the drug mafia could not have been an accident. The carefully cultivated narrative was swallowed by a large section of the people and fits into the current political narrative.

Land had earlier been allotted to several producers from Mumbai at NOIDA’s film city. But one can see newspaper offices there and not much film-making activity. It is quite possible that the new Film City in Greater NOIDA will also see land sharks take advantage of the scheme and sell or lease out the land at profit.

This is not to discredit any attempt by Hindi speaking states to promote films and film industry. But such an industry should reflect the region’s cultural and linguistic diversity and make use of the rich literature produced in these states.

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