PK Balachandran Sri Lankan Correspondent, bdnews24.com
Colombo, March 13: Sri Lanka wants to jump onto the money spinning Bollywood bandwagon, by promoting itself as a top location for Bollywood films, based on past achievements as a film shooting destination for both Bollywood and Hollywood films.
“Sri Lanka is a compact destination with many places of natural diversity located just a few hundred kilometers from each other. Blessed with all the natural wonders and captivating landscapes, Sri Lanka became the cynosure of all eyes at the India International Film Tourism Conclave – 2017 (IIFTC) held in Mumbai last month,” said the Colombo-based website newsin.asia quoting government tourism department sources.
Sri Lanka Tourism was among more than 18 countries which show-cased what they could offer to film makers from across the world. The event attracted leading film producers from Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata.
“We were able to convince Indian film producers to think of choosing Sri Lanka as the location for their next film,” the tourism department claimed.
With frequent flights linking Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Trivandrum and New Delhi with Colombo, Sri Lanka is easily reachable. The traveler-friendly visa regime makes travel to Sri Lanka smooth and hassle free, the department officials told the Mumbai conclave.
Sri Lanka also has competent film location service companies run by experienced film personalities like Hollywood Director Chandran Rutnam and veteran actor Ravindra Randeniya. These companies not only have modern equipment but also trained hands with experience of working for European and Hollywood production teams.
“Sri Lanka Tourism” is planning to organize a location familiarization tour program for select high profile film directors and producers from the Indian film industry.
In recent years, popular Bollywood movies such as Salman Khan’s Ready, Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet, Sunny Leone’s Jism 2, Deepa Mehta’s Water and Maniratnam’s Kannathil Mutthamittaal were either entirely or partly shot in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’ tryst with international film making began in the mid 1950s with David Lean’s Bridge on the River Kwai. Shot in Kitulgala and the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens near Kandy, the blowing up of the bridge in the film is rated as one of cinema’s most iconic moments. The Alec Guinness starrer saw the construction of a 425 feet long wooden bridge, 90 feet above a river, which cost a staggering US$ 250,000. The actual World War II bridge was in Thailand.
Sri Lanka has given refuge to film makers persecuted in India. Deepa Mehta’s controversial 2005 film Water starring Lisa Ray, John Abraham and Seema Biswas, was shot in Sri Lanka because India was hostile. This film on the young Hindu widows of Benaras, faced hostility from Hindu conservatives in the city by the holy Ganges river. Religious fanatics burnt the sets of the film. Therefore, the location had to be shifted to the Bolgoda Lake, south of Colombo. Water which portrayed the plight of a child widow went on to win 18 awards and 14 nominations internationally. Fearing opposition from Islamic fanatics in India, Deepa Mehta also shot Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children in the safety of tolerant Sri Lanka.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom starring Harrison Ford and Amrish Puri, was set in India but filmed in Sri Lanka. According to Roar.lk, during the shooting, Barbara Streisand’s dresses were eaten by elephants and Steven Spielberg met his future wife Kate Capshaw. An Italian crew shot a film on Mother Teresa in Colombo.
Sri Lanka has been an ideal place to shoot films set in tropical countries. Producers prefer to shoot in this island than go to the actual locales. Sri Lanka was the substitute locale for Sumatra in Paradise Road; for Borneo in Farewell to the King and The Sleeping Dictionary; for Myanmar in Beyond Rangoon and Never So Few; for Papua New Guinea in The Mountain of the Cannibal God and Eaten Alive!; for Thailand in Bridge on the River Kwai; for Africa in Tarzan, the Ape Man and The Great Alligator; and for India in Water, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo, and Midnight’s Children.
Explaining the preference for Sri Lanka, Colombo-based film services company, Asian Film Location Services (Pvt) Ltd., said that in Sri Lanka it is easy to get permission to shoot, the people are cooperative and friendly, and many of them can speak in English.
(The featured image at the top shows Satya Bhabha and Shreya Saran in Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children)