When one thinks of Serbia, the first thing that comes to one’s mind would probably be the world’s number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic. But how many people do actually follow the racket sport? Take India for instance. One will definitely find some hardcore tennis fans in the cricket-crazy country, but they are mostly restricted to crowds in a handful of states.
It seems that the once-unexplored and under the radar Serbia is finally getting the attention it deserves, as filmmakers around the world have started to take notice of its little-known or remote places. In 2018, some of Serbia's most iconic locations were seen on the big screen, especially in Indian films. From Diljit Dosanjh’s sports biographical drama Soorma to veteran director Mani Ratnam’s Tamil-language crime-thriller Chekka Chivantha Vaanam and most recently Aditya Dhar’s Uri: The Surgical Strike, Serbia played the starring role in numerous Indian movies.
“From the beginning, promoting Serbia as the shooting destination for the Indian film industry has been the priority,” says Serbia's Ambassador to India, Vladimir Maric, as he sits for an exclusive chat with News18. “There is one important achievement that facilitates both tourism and filmmaking - the fact that we abolished visas for Indian citizens one-and-a-half years ago.”
The decision to grant visa-free travel to Indian nationals came into force on September 2, 2017 and allows 30 days of travel in Serbia in one year.
The ambassador notes that one of the major reasons why Serbia is quickly becoming one of the most desirable locations in Europe for Indian filmmakers and producers is that the film crew doesn’t have to go through the long and tiring procedure of applying for visas.
“When I say no visa, it means no visa on arrival, no e-visa and no fee. The only thing you need to do as an Indian citizen is book your ticket, pick up your passport and make the trip. If you want to go for a longer stay, then you need to apply for a visa. But for tourist visits, there’s no requirement of visa for a stay up to 30 days.
“It makes things a lot easier for film crews to quickly send their people to the destination. If you need a visa, it takes a lot of time and documents. With Serbia, production companies can very quickly get their crew on the ground. This is one major advantage when it comes to filming there,” he adds.
The other reason for Serbia’s rising growth in the movie sector is its production incentives. The 25% rebate programme has given a massive boost to the Serbian production industry, making it a very film-friendly destination. It also offers many other advantages for foreign productions, including top talent and infrastructure – crews, studios etc.
“We have very attractive rebates that the government gives on money that’s spent on shooting movies and advertisements. When you put these things together, I think Serbia is going to become one of the top destinations for film shooting in Europe.”
With Vicky Kaushal’s recently released Uri doing exceptionally well at the box office, the ambassador is hopeful that it will help attract more Indian filmmakers to Serbia.
Uri, based on the Indian Army’s surgical strikes on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir as retaliation for the Uri attack in 2016, used Serbia’s surreal snowy hillside setting to replicate Kashmir in the film. The depiction of surgical strike carried out by Indian army in the movie was entirely shot in Serbia.
““I’m sure with Uri being a major hit at the box office, more people from the industry would want to explore Serbia and we’ll have more movies which can showcase the beautiful locales of the country. We also have very qualified people in pre-production and post-production (for example, post-production for SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali 2: The Conclusion was done in Serbia) and first-rate studios," the ambassador signs off.