Following up on his announcement of establishing biggest film city in the country, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday held meeting with several prominent representatives of the film industry at his official residence in Lucknow to chalk out the details.
While the pros and cons and the need for having a second Film City in the Gautam Buddha Nagar district could be debated, what stands out is the speed with which the UP government has taken the plan forward. Noida already has a functional Film City in Sector 16 A with multiple studios and outdoor spots spread over 100 acres of integrated complex.
Last Friday, the chief minister announced his government’s move to set up the country’s “biggest and most beautiful film city” in Gautam Buddha Nagar. Mandate given to officials was to search a suitable land in or around Noida, Greater Noida or Yamuna Expressway and prepare an action plan.
Within the next 48 hours, on Sunday the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) announced that it has identified 1,000 acres land and has already sent the proposal to the state government.
Two days later on Tuesday CM Yogi while approving the proposal sat with prominent film personalities to brainstorm the project. That is three days all it took to allot 1,000 acres of land near the national capital.
The breakneck speed at which the files moved from Noida to Lucknow led experts following UP politics to draw parallel with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swift move as Gujarat chief minister to seal the Nano car deal with the Tata group. In October 2008, relocation of the Rs 2,000-crore Tata Nano project to Gujarat from Singur in West Bengal happened in a span of just three days with the Gujarat government allotting 1,100 acres of land to the Tatas at Sanand, about 44 km from Gandhinagar.
The decision for an alternate Film City also comes at a time when Bollywood is bitterly divided on ideological lines. The industry known for promoting liberal-left causes is increasingly being challenged by right-leaning filmmakers and actors who feel their voice was stifled for too long, pointed out a film commentator who didn’t wish to be named.
“Many of these filmmakers see Mumbai as the bastion of the Left ecosystem and may think of moving out their base from Mumbai to Noida, provided they get better infrastructure and cheap workforce,” he said.
Like PM Modi who understood the soft power of Bollywood quite early in his political career, Yogi too quite well recognises the power of cinema as a medium for mass outreach. A Film City could well help him in his re-election bid and add to his political resume for higher jobs in future.
Things have changed a lot in Mumbai may also work in Yogi’s favour, according to industry watchers. Not just the city is ultra-expensive to live and work but also the trade unionism is hurting its once liberal inclusive image. Besides most of the prominent locations in the city have been milked to the hilt on screen. City’s poor infrastructure is another reason why filmmakers are increasingly opting for outside locations. On the contrary the proposed Film City in Gautam Buddha Nagar is located just within 50 km of the national capital New Delhi.
Within 100 km radius, it has three functional airports including Delhi’s IGI, Agra and Ghaziabad’s Hindon Airport. Also, the spot is at just six km away from the upcoming international airport at Jewar. Secondly, the place is on the Yamuna Expressway connecting Delhi to Agra and National Highway 93 linking Aligarh to Agra. And it is well connected with the Delhi-Kolkata and Mathura-Bareilly rail links.Mumbai film industry took off in early days because of city’s cosmopolitan culture which New Delhi as a ‘sarkari’ city lacked.
The absence of basic cinema production infrastructure and liberal corporate work culture in the NCR further impeded its tryst with cinema making. But the Delhi-NCR of 2020 is different — it is a match or even more attractive than Mumbai on many counts.
Bollywood’s experiments of 60’s and 70’s could well be repeated in the NCR now. The Film City will also give a big boost to regional cinemas, especially Bhojpuri, Awadhi, Bundeli and Braj films which are struggling to survive amidst commercialisation. Additionally, with many studios and news channels Noida already has a robust infrastructure of video-production.
Being a media hub will further come handy for film promotions and publicity. Being an emerging hub of IT industry Noida can well offer the ancillary work of film processing and animations. Since love and romance has been the dominant theme of Hindi films for long, Taj Mahal the greatest symbol of love is also not very far away from the proposed city.
Apart from Taj Mahal, holy Mathura-Vrindavan, scenic mountainous Uttarakhand, ravines of Chambal, historic Gwalior Forts, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary – all lie within an hour’s travel from the proposed spot.