Leading Bollywood production houses recently concluded a significant six-day exploration tour across Sri Lanka, scouting for potential filming locations for upcoming films and OTT web series. During the visit, the delegations covered popular destinations including Colombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Ella, Hambantota, and Kalutara. The purpose was dual:
- Unearth fresh, breathtaking locations, both manmade and natural.
- Establish partnerships with Sri Lankan government bodies, local film industry stakeholders, and the tourism department.
The visiting production houses have given Bollywood some of its biggest blockbusters such as:
- Bajirao Mastani
- Gully Boy
- Air Lift
- Batla House
- Lust Stories
- Mrs. Chatterjee vs. Norway
Strategic Collaborations and Promotions
The visit was facilitated by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, and aimed to promote Sri Lanka as a prime shooting destination for Indian film and OTT production houses, particularly from Mumbai’s Bollywood. The strategic initiatives included:
- Discussing potential incentives and local support for filming in Sri Lanka.
- Enhancing awareness about ‘Shooting in Sri Lanka’.
- Strengthening ties with international film service providers in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Tourism expects that by accommodating Indian film and OTT productions, the nation will witness increased foreign income through hospitality, transportation, and other logistical services. Furthermore, showcasing the beauty and culture of Sri Lanka in Indian entertainment mediums can boost its position as a favored holiday destination for Indian tourists.
Voices from Bollywood
- Shobha Sant, the Head of Film Content at Jio Studios, expressed her amazement at the splendor of Sri Lanka. With over 40 years in Indian Cinema and known for producing hits like Bajirao Mastani and Padmaavat, she emphasized the similarities between the two countries in terms of service, food culture, and environment.
- Angad Dev Singh, CEO of Tiger Baby, the brains behind Gully Boy, praised Sri Lanka’s diverse landscapes, calling it a “versatile canvas for storytelling.” Singh, who has nearly a decade’s experience in the media business, highlighted the pristine beaches, lush forests, and ancient temples as potential locations for diverse cinematic scenes.
- Karan Joshi, CEO of Emmy Entertainment, described his experience in Sri Lanka as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Reflecting on the unmatched natural beauty of the nation, he highlighted the deep cultural connections between India and Sri Lanka.
Unlocking Potential: The Road Ahead
While this recent exploratory trip marks a significant leap in Indo-Lankan film collaborations, it’s merely the beginning. The global film industry thrives on diversity, with locations playing an intrinsic role in storytelling. Sri Lanka, with its unique landscapes and cultural tapestry, offers filmmakers a plethora of options, from high-octane action sequences on bustling streets to heartwarming tales set in serene countryside settings.
Benefits Beyond Cinema
Beyond the film reels, such collaborations promise to foster deeper cultural exchanges. As Indian movies and series, renowned for their global appeal, portray Sri Lankan locales, it’s anticipated that there will be a surge in tourism from movie enthusiasts and general tourists alike, eager to experience the locations they saw on screen.
Moreover, with films being a powerful medium of storytelling, showcasing Sri Lanka’s culture, traditions, and history can lead to better cultural understanding, dispelling myths and bridging any existing gaps.
Future of Film Tourism in Sri Lanka
Chalaka Gajabahu, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, shared insights on their aggressive promotions to position Sri Lanka as a filming destination, not just for Indian cinema, but also for European and Hollywood films. Key initiatives include:
- A dedicated Film Tourism Policy for Sri Lanka.
- Working on a ‘Single Window Filming’ Process centralized under SLTPB.
- Participation in International Film Tourism and Location Shows.
Gajabahu also revealed that this was their second film location familiarization trip in 2023, specifically targeting Indian Cinema.
The collaboration between Indian production houses and Sri Lanka’s tourism and film sectors is poised to offer mutual benefits. With Bollywood being the world’s largest film producer, creating over 2000 films annually, such partnerships can drive substantial economic and cultural value for Sri Lanka while providing Bollywood with fresh, captivating locations for their narratives.