Insight

Bring it on I say!

Life has never stopped surprising me. The unexpected may make you wonder about the scheme of things in the most unusual of moments, and what you expect may almost never happen ( it’s like my senses telling me “Hey! Whatever in the world made you think you were gonnaget that?!”) So over the years, the one mind-set that has almost always worked for me – Bring it on!

And it all got challenged (once again) in the most unimaginable of situations.

"Is that a cow on the road?" asked my foreign client.

"Duuuhh... yeah!" spoke my mind; however, being the absolute professional that I am supposed to be, I politely smiled and said, "I think so.”(It does look like one!)

"But what is it doing on the road?" she exclaimed in utter amazement. "Errr... what do you think? Dancing perhaps?" said my mind again. "She's walking." (But obviously!)

"Why isn't it in a farm or some kind of safe place?" Good question. Do I know the answer to that? Now that she asked, well sort of. I do not know what the cow is doing on the road. I've grown up seeing them on the road. It's conditioned as an absolutely normal thing in my head. I mean, where else would it walk? All the farms I've seen in and around Delhi are used as wedding venues. Never seen cows there. Come to think of it, never seen goats either... rabbits and birds maybe... but cows, horses, sheep, pigs... err.. definitely not. Coming to the original question…I do not know what the cow is doing on the road.

 One thing I know for sure -wherever she is on the road, she's bloody safe. It's us whoneed to worry. Imagine walking close to the cow - what if she has anger issues and suddenly finds me a good target? What if she suddenly decides to cross the road while I’m speeding in my car? And what if she gets tired of all the walking and decides to rest in the middle of the road?

My deliberation seemed to have got lost in the loud gasps of astonishment from the rest of the European crew. I reminisced the Almighty, and just then..

"Is that a Brahmi cow?”

"A what?" said my vocal chords (unable to control themselves).

"A brahmi cow!"

"I dont know. Is there a thing as a Brahmi cow?"

"Why yes! I'll show you. See..." And she googled it... Ohhhh! Wow…Ok!

Alright… so this was going to be an interesting trip from Delhi to Agra; we were going to take some fabulous shots of the Taj Mahal - but that seemed to be the least of my worries. All that was sorted; but this... well, ummm!

So here I go; bags packed, phone charged, internet working, google search engine ready - Bring it on I say!

The above narrative is one of the many such situations I have come across while working with production units coming into India, especially for the first time. It's amazing to see their reaction towards the cultural differences, and equally astonishing to note the amount of knowledge that they have on small things about India that we Indians may not have even thought of. India is an experience to be cherished – whether you are a tourist, a student or a business traveller. It will never stop tingling your senses while making you experiencesomething new, somethingdifferent, something extraordinary, and maybe sometimes something awkward as well. One thing is for sure though - it will leave you with stories to tell for a life time!

And for people like me, simple line producers... if I haven't said it already, God bless Google!

‘Atithidevo Bhava’ - The Big Fat Indian Welcome

Unless you have already been exposed to one, let me tell you something about the Great Indian Welcome Ceremony (yes, it qualifies for being called a ‘ceremony’) – when we sing “Padhaaro Mhaare Des” (a popular welcome song in the state of Rajasthan meaning ’Welcome to our country’, or to put it more royally, ‘Welcome to our Land’ )for you, our dear beloved foreign guest, we seriously mean it. While you stand holding a blank, polite smile on your face, staring at your interpreter to explain the lyrics of the song to you, we are working on something much more meaningful…we are initiating the process of an exquisite soiree of a grand sort, never before visualized, experienced, or most significantly – expected. Was it a chair you expected to sit on? What you will most probably get is a ‘gaddi’(like a mini-throne). Was it a glass of water you expected on arrival? Well, don’t be surprised if you get a semi-meal starting with welcome drink, followed by various popular Indian snacks (most likely fried), and at least one Indian sweet. Have you just reached a certain hospital in a certain Indian city for a certain shoot for the Columbia University (uh…this may have actually happened), expecting a hand-shake as welcome? Again, please try to conceal your amazement as you are welcomed right at the entrance with a garland being put around your neck, a ‘tika’ being put on your forehead (a mark made on the forehead with vermillion and sandalwood paste), and a plate with a lit oil lamp being circulated around your face multiple times. ‘Atithidevo Bhava’!

So what does ‘Atithidevo Bhava’ mean? Simple … Guest=God; and hence deserves godly treatment. It is a Sanskrit verse from an ancient Hindu scripture, which has over time become one of the country’s cultural code of conduct. Never should a guest leave dissatisfied, it preaches; and so, please expect special arrangements to be made for you every now and then while you are here– be it your hotel booking magically being upgraded to a suite, or the rest of the crew (the Indian bit of it, of course) being completely ignored so a picture can be clicked with you, their international star of the day (especially if you are a lady). I remember a hotel in Mumbai once flaunting it’s generosity by offering our foreign client a sea-facing room the size of a matchbox, and repeatedly highlighting it as if they were The Bellagio!

The grandeur of the welcome may vary depending on the size of the place you visit, but there is surely no dearth in magnanimity. Smaller towns with infrequent tourism are often more eager to display their courtesy, considering they don’t get to see you much. Wherever you go, be it cities or villages, please be prepared to very commonly be offered at least water (if not the rest of the menu). So how do you give your ultra-courteous host a ‘service no’ considering your poor stomach may be too delicate for the tangy Indian spices, the excess oil and/or the possibly unfiltered water? Well, all the best as you work on that!

Even with the sheepish grins that I give my foreign clients at times in response to the bewildered looks on their faces while they are being welcomed the ‘Indian’ way, my heart often fills with warmth to see the extent to which we go to ensure that our guests are well taken care of. We may be elaborate, we may be ceremonial, we may be overwhelming, but what you will certainly find that we are not – is inhospitable.     

And for those of our dear international clients who are yet to experience the Great Indian Welcome, well….’Padhaaro Mhaare Des’!

Filming in India – Getting Started

Incredible India – an apt name given to the awe-inspiring mystic land that is India. A cornucopia of culture, history, beliefs and varied scenic beauty, this country never ceases to amaze and pique one’s imagination. If this is the country you have chosen to unleash your creativity, we can help you get started with the initial preparations.

Permits

First and foremost, you would need to apply for permission to film in India. To film a Feature film in India, permission needs to be taken from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. A detailed proposal with the required particulars pertaining to project nature, content (script), members of the filming team etc. should be sent at least a month in advance, either directly to the Ministry or through Indian Missions abroad. It is only on the recommendation of this Ministry that other Ministries provide facilities to the production companies. Approval is given subject to certain procedural regulations. The permission process can take upto 6-8 weeks.

Filming of documentary, corporate and ad films requires permission to be sought from the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. A completed application form along with a signed undertaking needs to be sent (preferably by e-mail) to the officer responsible for press and information work in the relevant High Commissions or Embassy of India. This application is further processed in India by the External Publicity (XP) Division of the Ministry of External Affairs, post which a clearance is issued for filming in India. It is basis this clearance that Indian missions abroad issue a ‘J’ (Journalist) Visa to travel to India for filming purposes. This is the only visa on which documentary filming is permissible.

Both Ministries are located in Delhi. To know further details of applying for permission for filming in India, please visit the India Film Commission portal at http://indiafilm.org/policies/permissions/ .

For any aerial photography that may need to be done, a Drone Permit needs to be acquired. An application with the relevant particulars and a detailed flight plan needs to be submitted to the Director General of Civil Aviation, Government of India, at least 90 days in advance. To view the application form format with details of the particulars required, please click http://www.dgca.nic.in/forms/aer_photo.pdf .

Time Zone and Currency

India runs on the Indian Standard Time (IST) time zone, which is 5 hours and 30 minutes ahead of GMT. The country’s currency is the Indian Rupee (currency code INR) - the current exchange rate for 1 USD is 64.26 INR (to view updated exchange rates, you can go to https://www.xe.com/currency/inr-indian-rupee).

Climate

This could be another important aspect that you might want to consider and prepare for before you begin your shooting experience in India. Though weather conditions in specific areas may widely differ due to a varied topography, the country mainly has four seasons – winter (December to February), summer (March to May), monsoon (June to September) and a post-monsoon period (October to November). Each season brings its own shades of charm and picturesqueness. Knowing more and planning travel and shooting according to the climate and seasons can help you capture India from unique angles.

You can read more about the best time to visit India at http://www.indiatourismecatalog.com/india_climate_weather/india_weather_climate.html .

Connectivity

It is always more practical to get a local prepaid sim card while travelling. Getting a prepaid sim card is a fairly easy process in India if you have the appropriate documentation ready. Alternatively, Angles Unlimited can also purchase a prepaid sim cards for you once informed in advance. 3G and 4G data plans are readily available.

For more information, you can visit http://10yearitch.com/india-travel-advice/buying-and-using-a-sim-card-in-india/ .

Emergency Contact

Some emergency helpline numbers to keep handy are:

  • 112 – common emergency number for the Police, Ambulance and Fire
  • 1800111363 or 1363 – 24x7 Tourist Helpline providing free of charge assistance to tourists/visitors in 12 international languages, including information on Travel and Tourism in India, and support with advice on action to be taken in distress while in India (and if required, to alert the concerned authorities)
  • 181 – Women’s Helpline(domestic abuse and sexual violence)

For a detailed list of helpline numbers, please visit http://www.newincept.com/helpline-numbers-all-over-in-india.html .

Happy gearing up for your journey!