'Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' Honored for Showcasing India Filming Locations

Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Judi Dench-starrer was among the winners at the Cinema Scapes awards and industry event organized on the sidelines of the 2012 Mumbai Film Festival.

MUMBAI – British comedy drama The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, starring Judi Dench, was honored at the Cinema Scapes awards as the best international film to showcase India as a shooting location.

The John Madden-directed film was shot at various locations in the western state of Rajasthan. The award was received by a representative from Fox Star Studios India which distributed the film here.

Cinema Scapes, a two-day B2B event promoting cinema and tourism, was organized by the Film and TV Producers Guild of India in association with the 2012 Mumbai Film Festival which wrapped Thursday.

The Cinema Scapes awards also honored India's Oscar entry Barfi! as the best Indian film to showcase a location. Directed by Anurag Basu, Barfi! was mostly filmed in the scenic hill-station of Darjeeling in the eastern state of Bengal. The best Indian film to showcase a foreign location went to hit Bollywood road trip, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, the first major Indian production to extensively shoot in Spain.

With the event offering a platform for various international tourism boards to promote their locations to Indian producers, Cinema Scapes also included panel discussions on cinema tourism. But the challenges for foreign films to shoot in India were also highlighted.

“The decision to shoot in India is driven by script considerations more than anything else. However, this will change with a little push by the government through the setting up of a National Film Commission,” said Motion Pictures Association's India office MD Uday Singh. “If India can bring in single-window clearances for filming rather than creating a web of red tape, it could be a big boost to the country.”

India's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Ministry of Tourism have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to provide strong support to film tourism and establish the NFC.

Some of the recent high-profile Hollywood projects to shoot in India include the latest Batman installment The Dark Knight Rises for which director Chris Nolan filmed some scenes in Jodhpur's historic Mehrangarh Fort in Rajasthan. Kathryn Bigelow's much-awaited drama based on the killing of Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty, attracted controversy when protestors opposed the film's shoot for recreating a Pakistani location in the North Indian city of Chandigarh.

The latest James Bond film Skyfall was considering an India action scene on a train. But permissions were delayed when the railway ministry reportedly wanted some changes in the script, leading the producers to shift to South Africa.

The impact on tourism when Indian films shoot in overseas locations was also the event's highlight. “My (2006) film Gangster was the first Bollywood production to shoot in Korea,” said leading producer Mukesh Bhatt adding, “Before the film's release, air passenger occupancy from Mumbai to Seoul was around 30 per cent. Six months after the film's release, occupancy levels shot up to almost 95 per cent.”

Cinema Scapes included presentations by various tourism boards from India and overseas including Malaysia, Thailand, Spain and Japan which highlighted the mountain landscapes of Sapporo. “We are here to introduce Sapporo to Indian producers who could see this as a fresh alternative to Switzerland (a historically popular destination for Bollywood) at about the same cost,” said Screen Authority Sapporo COO Toshi Inoue.