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Shoot in UP, get Akhilesh cash

- Government grants up to Rs 1.25cr for movies filmed in state

Lucknow, April 11: If Akhilesh Yadav has his way, Chulbul Pandey will prowl Kanpur’s streets, not a set made to look like the Uttar Pradesh town.

The Akhilesh government has announced an offer of financial assistance to filmmakers who showcase the state’s tourist attractions, linguistic diversity, culture and its myriad dialects in their movies.

The initiative is aimed at encouraging the likes of Vishal Bhardwaj, the Uttar Pradesh-born filmmaker whose Omkara had characters converse in khari boli, a western Uttar Pradesh dialect, in the 2006 movie.

The plan is also meant to lure others like Arbaaz Khan whose blockbuster Dabangg and Dabangg 2, in which Salman Khan takes on thugs as inspector Chulbul Pandey, was set in the state but filmed in a Maharashtra village.

“Uttar Pradesh has a rich regional culture and language. If showcased in Bollywood films, they will help promote tourism and culture,” said minister for protocol Abhisekh Mishra, unveiling the proposal on Tuesday.

The government will provide as grant 25 per cent of a film’s cost if it uses local dialects and is shot at least 75 per cent in the state.

The upper limit for the incentive, which will be given after a state panel vets the theme and the script, will be Rs 1.25 crore. Mishra claimed several directors have made enquiries in the two days since the announcement.

Uttar Pradesh also has a huge number of viewers, accounting for around 40 per cent of a movie’s north India collections, another factor filmmakers are unlikely to lose sights of while focusing on the state or shooting there.

But many filmmakers appear to have overlooked this element, preferring to shoot elsewhere movies based on the northern state.

And the Dabangg franchise isn’t the only example. Last month’s release Jolly LLB shows Arshad Warsi as a young lawyer from Meerut, but the Subhash Kapoor movie was not shot in the heartland pocket.

“The Uttar Pradesh government wants to reverse this trend (of films being shot elsewhere) with the incentive scheme for movies shot at locations in the state,” a senior official in the information department said.

If Akhilesh is looking for a perfect shot for his film plan, he could count on Tigmanshu Dhulia to say “Cut!”. The director met the chief minister recently when he was in Lucknow with Saif Ali Khan shooting Bullet Raja.

It is learnt that Dhulia, born and raised in Allahabad, told Akhilesh the state offered immense scope to filmmakers. Last week, the Bullet Raja crew shot a sequence on Lucknow’s historic Hazratganj Road that saw Saif, gun in hand, chase Gulshan Grover. South star Dhanush and Sonam Kapoor were in Varanasi recently for Raanjhnaa.

The Akhilesh government is also promising security, aware that many filmmakers have complained about the lack of a conducive atmosphere for shooting, especially failure to manage large crowds that have often overrun sets.

“If requested, the state will provide complete police cover for shoots,” the information department official said.

Bhardwaj’s Omkara, which had the limping, khari boli-speaking Saif wow audiences as Langda Tyagi, remains the model. The film revived interest in the dialect at a time it is under threat from urban Hindi.

Manoj Kumar Singh, principal secretary in the culture department, said Awadhi, Braj Bundeli, Bhojpuri were among the other languages in the state that have been used in Bollywood productions and could be promoted further.