While India is creatively stimulating, it also has a reputation as a country that can be difficult to navigate — particularly the process of obtaining shooting permits from a plethora of central and state government agencies, which in the past was notoriously slow and lacking in transparency. The country has 29 states and seven union territories and up until recently, applying for permits across multiple locations could take months.
However, much has changed since India’s Ministry of Information & Broadcasting launched the Film Facilitation Office (FFO) at the end of 2015. Established under India’s National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), the FFO has created a network of officers across Indian state governments and central agencies — including the Ministry of Railways, Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) — to act as a central contact point and assist producers.
The FFO also recently launched a web portal that enables local and international producers to apply for permits online and offers information about Indian locations, crews, facilities and co-production agreements. In addition, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs has introduced a special F-Visa for film crews, which is valid for up to one year with multiple entries.
“We’ve seen big improvements on the government side — they’re working hard to bring in shoots by making the process more transparent and that much easier,” says Dileep Singh Rathore of production services company On The Road India, who has worked on films including Point Break, London Has Fallen and The Dark Knight Rises, which all shot scenes in India. “The individual states are also being very aggressive in attracting local and international productions, because they understand it creates jobs and injects money into the local economy.”
One impact of the FFO’s work is permits that once took up to two months to obtain are now issued within three weeks. “We’re still not at the stage of single-window clearance, but a lot has changed in a short time,” says Rakasree Basu of production services company Frames Per Second Films, which last year also co-produced Iqbal & The Jewel Of India with Denmark’s Miso Film. “There’s now a much more realistic approach to the dynamic nature of film schedules.”
India is culturally and linguistically diverse, so experience of shooting in one part of the country may not prepare international producers for shooting in another. “Think of India as a continent, rather than as a country — that’s the kind of complexity you’ll find here,” says Basu.
However, there are several experienced production services companies, some of which specialise in certain types of shoots. While On The Road India and India Take One Productions handle a range of projects, including Hollywood films, Frames Per Second Films works mostly with Scandinavian productions and Deborah Benattar’s La Fabrique Films with the French film industry.
Due to its diverse landscapes, low costs and skilled local workforce, India has always attracted a steady flow of international film and TV productions. In 2018, projects to shoot in India included AGBO-produced action film Dhaka, starring Chris Hemsworth and distributed worldwide by Netflix, and Gurinder Chadha’s Beecham House, a six-part series for the UK’s ITV, while Christopher Nolan’s Tenet starring Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki shot in Mumbai in September 2019.
Upcoming TV projects expected to shoot in the country include Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, directed by Mira Nair for the BBC; and Apple’s adaptation of Shantaram, produced with Anonymous Content and Paramount Television.
Many of these productions are set in India, tapping into the country’s rich history and extensive canon of English-language literature, much of which is familiar to international audiences.
India has film and TV production hubs in many cities, with the biggest including the Hindi-language industry in Mumbai, Tamil-language in Chennai and Telugu-language in Hyderabad. Although Mumbai has a few state-of-the-art studios, including facilities owned by Yash Raj Films and Reliance Entertainment, they are often full with local productions. However, international shoots usually come to India for the locations, which range from the snow-capped Himalayas in the north to deserts, jungle, backwaters, beaches and historic monuments. English-speaking crew is widely available in Mumbai and some other cities, but not across the whole country. Skilled technicians with experience of working on international shoots are more expensive than crew working on local films, but still cheaper than in the West.
Stretching around 3,000 kilometres north to south and east to west, India is the same size as Western Europe, but major cities are connected by air, rail and road. India has efficient, cost-effective airlines and rail travel is comfortable although sometimes slow. Traffic jams can result in huge delays in the major cities during the day, but at night the streets can be deserted.
First person to contact
Film Facilitation Office firstname.lastname@example.org