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Varanasi: The Burgeoning Flashpoint of Cinematic Powerhouse

Varanasi attracts filmmakers to explore diverse themes and genres beyond traditional narratives, ensuring its continued prominence as a cinematic gem on the global map

The unique amalgamation of spirituality, culture, history, and robust government support for Varanasi has propelled its status as the go-to destination for film shoots, establishing it as a bustling hub for filmmakers in search of authentic Indian backdrops and experiences. With over 50 feature films, music videos, and advertisements under his belt across Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada languages, Line Producer Sundeep Bhardwaj consistently favors Varanasi over other locales owing to its unparalleled charm. Noteworthy productions such as the critically acclaimed “Masaan” starring Vicky Kaushal, the blockbuster “Petta” featuring Rajinikanth, and the much-talked-about “Jogira Sara Sa Ra” with Nawazuddin Siddiqui bear testimony to Varanasi’s cinematic allure.

In his pivotal role, Sundeep adeptly manages the intricate logistics of film crews within Varanasi, orchestrating seamless shoots by navigating the maze of approvals from diverse agencies and organizations. Speaking frankly with The Interview World, Sundeep Bhardwaj sheds light on the film fraternity’s enduring affinity for Varanasi as the ultimate filming locale.

Q: How did you first break into the film industry?

A: In this industry, the primary impetus stems from the liberty of thought and expression, fostering an environment where creative potential flourishes unabated. It stands as a unique realm, affording individuals the unparalleled freedom to manifest their imaginative prowess. Furthermore, it serves as a platform for continuous learning and skill application, offering myriad opportunities for professional growth.

Within this domain, one can seamlessly transition between diverse roles, each serving a purpose that can be rationalized. Since 2012, I’ve been an active participant in this vibrant sector, collaborating with esteemed luminaries such as Rajinikanth, Juhi Chawla, Sanjay Mishra, Vicky Kaushal, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Kangana Ranaut, Vijay Raaz, G. V. Prakash Kumar, Raju Mohan, and Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.

Q: How has Varanasi emerged as a prominent shooting destination?

A: Varanasi, revered as Kashi or Banaras, stands as a venerable nexus of religious, cultural, and political significance within India. Its profound religious importance is deeply rooted in Hindu mythology and spirituality. As one of Hinduism’s holiest cities, it is revered as the abode of Lord Shiva and boasts numerous temples dedicated to various deities. Along the sacred banks of the Ganges River, the city’s ghats offer sanctified spaces for pilgrims to perform rituals, cleanse their souls in the holy waters, and conduct cremations. Recent efforts by authorities to cleanse and preserve the Ganges underscore its spiritual and environmental significance.

Culturally, Varanasi is a vibrant tapestry of art, music, dance, and literature. Its historical significance as a hub of learning and creativity has attracted scholars, artists, and performers for centuries, fostering a rich cultural milieu. Festivals and cultural events, such as the revered Ganga Aarti ceremony at the Dashashwamedh Ghat, epitomize the city’s cultural vibrancy. Amidst its ancient architecture and bustling markets, Varanasi’s streets weave a cultural narrative that resonates locally and globally.

Politically, Varanasi’s significance is exemplified by its status as the parliamentary constituency of the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. His decision to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Varanasi underscored the city’s national political prominence. Government initiatives aimed at developing the city’s infrastructure and promoting tourism further accentuate its political importance. Varanasi’s diverse and dynamic political landscape reflects the broader political discourse at both local and state levels.

As the spiritual capital of India, Varanasi holds a significant allure for filmmakers due to its rich cultural tapestry and historical charm. The city’s ancient temples, bustling markets, and labyrinthine alleys provide a visually captivating backdrop for storytelling. Its position along the sacred Ganges River adds to its appeal, offering filmmakers a plethora of scenic vistas, especially during sunrise and sunset. Beyond its aesthetic beauty, Varanasi’s spiritual significance as a major pilgrimage site for Hindus infuses the atmosphere with a sense of reverence and mystique.

The city’s vibrant festivals, such as Diwali and Holi, provide filmmakers with opportunities to capture the essence of Indian culture. Furthermore, Varanasi’s accessibility and government support make it a practical choice for film productions. In summary, Varanasi’s blend of cultural heritage, spiritual resonance, and cinematic potential makes it a premier destination for filmmakers seeking to immerse themselves in the essence of India.

Varanasi’s ancient heritage, the majestic Ganga, its bustling ghats, winding alleys, sunlight, and diverse cuisine make it one of the most sought-after filming locations in India. The natural beauty and spiritual aura of the city cannot be replicated artificially. Moreover, the unique blend of spirituality and rhythm in Varanasi is unparalleled. These factors consistently draw filmmakers to consider Varanasi as a natural choice for their cinematic endeavors.

Q: How has Varanasi evolved as a shooting destination over the past decade?

A: Over the past decade, Varanasi has emerged as a sought-after shooting destination, experiencing a remarkable transformation from its traditional status as a religious center to a vibrant hub for filmmakers. Its narrow lanes, ancient temples, and bustling ghats provide a captivating backdrop for a variety of cinematic endeavors, drawing filmmakers from across the globe. The city’s rich cultural heritage and historical significance offer a tapestry of storytelling opportunities, allowing filmmakers to delve into the depths of Indian culture and spirituality.

Moreover, Varanasi’s international exposure has grown steadily, with acclaimed international films and documentaries choosing it as a backdrop, showcasing its timeless charm on the global stage. This evolution has been supported by significant infrastructure development, including improved connectivity and production facilities, as well as proactive initiatives by the Government of Uttar Pradesh to promote Varanasi as a filming destination. Consequently, Varanasi’s appeal has diversified, attracting filmmakers exploring diverse themes and genres beyond traditional narratives, ensuring its continued prominence as a cinematic gem on the global map.

Q: How can the government best support and promote the growth of the movie-making industry in Uttar Pradesh?

A: Promoting the growth of Uttar Pradesh’s movie-making industry necessitates a multifaceted approach that addresses various challenges. Firstly, the government should focus on infrastructure development by investing in state-of-the-art film studios, post-production facilities, and production houses. Such infrastructure not only attracts filmmakers but also provides necessary resources for high-quality film production.

Secondly, offering financial incentives like tax breaks, subsidies, and grants to filmmakers who choose UP as a shooting location can significantly reduce production costs and attract both domestic and international filmmakers.

Thirdly, establishing skill development programs and workshops to cultivate local talent in various aspects of filmmaking is crucial. A skilled workforce not only supports the local film industry but also appeals to filmmakers seeking competent crew members.

Additionally, streamlining the permitting process for film shoots by simplifying the bureaucratic hurdles encourages more filmmakers to choose UP. Marketing campaigns showcasing UP’s diverse landscapes, historical landmarks, and cultural heritage can draw attention to the state as an attractive filming destination. Collaboration with industry stakeholders, incentives for film tourism, support for independent filmmakers, and infrastructure for film education are also vital.

Finally, reviewing existing policies and regulations to identify areas for reform, such as censorship and intellectual property rights, can create a more conducive environment for the film industry’s growth. Through these strategies, the government can foster economic development and cultural exchange in Uttar Pradesh’s movie-making sector.

Masaan – A Stunning Cinematic Masterpiece Set Against the Enchanting Backdrop of Varanasi
Masaan – A Stunning Cinematic Masterpiece Set Against the Enchanting Backdrop of Varanasi
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