Shooting a film in Goa? First shell out hush money!

Panaji, July 1 (IANS) Behind the beauty of Goa as a destination for film shooting, a beast in the form of extortion to use a locale has begun to rear its head, film production experts say. In fact, such is the brazenness with which money is demanded that one worthy said what was being asked for was a donation to preserve culture!

To shoot a sequence at Campal, a quaint Portuguese architecture-influenced neighbourhood in the capital where several blockbusters, including part of the Rajnikanth-starrer “Robot” was shot, one has to cough out Rs 50,000 to a local councillor who fronts for a local resident association, line producer Dilip Borkar alleged.

“This is in excess of the fees we pay the state government for the shooting-related permissions,” Borkar said, showing a receipt to prove a point.

The civil society-extortion trend tumbled out in the open after a city doctor, Oscar Rebello, was beaten up by bouncers, who were “laying down the law” at a shooting location in Campal for Abbas Tyrewala’s upcoming film “Mango”.

While the All-Goa Line Producers Association (AGLPA) apologized to the doctor, it claimed that councillors and legislators, as well as NGOs located in tourism-friendly areas were demanding “fees” to ensure the smooth passage of the shooting.

“In Calangute or the beach nearby, it’s not just the police; we have to pay protection money to the panchayat and even local gangs. The same is the case with other areas like Morjim, where politician after politician and even journalists harass us,” a line producer, one of the dozen-odd empanelled by the state government, told IANS on condition of anonymity.

Local line producers are used by film production houses to liaison with the authorities and get permissions as well as the logistics sorted out before the crew and film shooting equipment worth crores of rupees lands on-site.

Ever since Goa was made the permanent venue for the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), the state has been vying to promote itself as a film shooting destination.

Popular Bollywood films like Shyam Benegal’s “Trikal”, Amitabh Bachchan-starrer “Pukar” and Rishi Kapoor-starrer “Saagar” have been shot in Goa, but the effort now was to seriously monetize the state’s popularity as a global tourism destination.

And the efforts did appear to be paying off.

In 2011, there were 600 film shoots in Goa, with the Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG), nodal agency, charging Rs 10,000 per day for shooting rights.

The spin-offs for the state government are even bigger, Borkar said.

“Almost every shoot has a crew of several hundred, including artistes, helpers, technicians and others. They too spend money when they land here,” he explained.

But Borkar’s extortion barb has triggered a sharp reaction from the Campal Residents Association (CRA) which has demanded an apology from the line producers for calling them extortionists who demand protection money.

CRA member Patricia Pinto prefers to call the money demanded as a “donation”.

“The donations are used for the upkeep and beautification of facades of heritage houses in Campal. We find this fair,” Pinto said. The area comprises an entire block of Portuguese-styled villas that date back to the colonial era.

Beautified houses benefit film shoots too, she said.

“We have not invited them here to film. It is they who want to derive benefits from the facades of houses in this heritage area that are maintained by the residents themselves who receive no help whatsoever from the government,” Pinto claimed – a charge Mayor Surendra Furtado rejected outright.

“If they are charging money like this, then the municipal corporation will stop sending sweepers to the area,” Furtado told IANS.

“This has to be sorted out. We need to know who is taking money and chai pani for these shoots. Until the city corporation gets to the bottom of this and streamlines procedures, we have decided to ban film shooting here,” Furtado added.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at [email protected])

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