Haryana is ideally located for promoting film production and entertainment, if you consider its easy access from Delhi and Chandigarh international airports. It has excellent site locations, both plains and Aravali mountains. Despite many positives, the Haryanvi film industry has not made much headway and could not make any place for itself on the national scene. While over the years other regional language film industry such as Tamil, Telgu, Bengali, Malayalam, Bengali, Punjabi and even Bhojpuri matured and made a place for themselves not only at national stage but also at international level, as many of their films were screened at international film festivals and got recognition and awards. Haryana film industry could not achieve that milestone.
Harish Kataria has been associated with the film Industry for more than four decades, gathering in the process wide knowledge and experience. He has worked in Haryana as producer, director, composer, and recorded songs, thus covering virtually all aspects of film-making. Three years after joining the film industry as assistant director, Kataria wrote and produced his first movie Sister (1978) starring Rehana Sultan. Loyal to his roots, he ensured that 60 percent of the supporting star cast was from Haryana.
Moreover, ninety percent of the shooting was done in Haryana locales — Naraingarh, Kurukshetra and Panipat. The movie was exempted from entertainment tax by the governments of Haryana, Bihar and Karnataka.
His second venture was Haryanvi movie Batewoo, a home production written and directed by him in 1984-85. The entire star cast was from Kurukshetra University, Karnal and Panipat. The movie was shot in Haryana and got tax-free status for one week in Haryana. Batewoo got a wider audience when it was released on Doordarshan in 1989. He has also written lyrics which have been sung by famous singers Asha Bhosle, Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik, besides Sonu Kakkar, Shahid Mallya, Asees Kaur and Panna Gill. Currently, he is producing and directing a Punjabi film, the major part of which will be shot in his home state of Haryana.
In this interview, he talks about the new, upcoming film policy to be announced by Haryana government during its silver jubilee celebrations.
‘Incentives must be given post production’
Haryana is celebrating its silver jubilee and the Chief Minister Khattar has
announced that a new film policy will be put in place to promote regional films and Haryanvi culture. What should be the main focus of the government in bringing a new film policy?
Haryana needs to take some innovative steps. The government needs to support the industry for at least five years and after that it would be able to stand on its own feet and, I am sure, even give tough competition to any regional film industry.But I am of the firm belief that the incentives and support shall be to genuine film artists and producers and it should be post production. The policy guidelines should be transparent and not be hindered by bureaucracy.
A normal film requires about 30-45 days of shooting and equipment consisting of camera, lights and cranes. A set of this equipment costs about 2 crore. A regional film producer does not have the capacity to invest in this equipment so the government may buy it initially and units may be rented out based on first come, first served basis. The system of online applications would bring transparency for movies being produced in Haryana.
What should be done to improve infrastructure for incentivising production of regional films?
The government needs to create a film city whereby all the facilities of film making can be put at one place. Initially, a studio may be built to be rented. Small plots can be allotted to technicians at concessional rates exclusively for constructing labs and other facilities. These technicians shall be with sound background of dubbing, editing, recordings etc. These kind of facilities can be great facilitators for enticing film-makers all over the country to come and make movies. Similarly, vacant land can be earmarked for renting where shooting of serials can be done.
What about tax incentives for film-makers?
Haryana should become first state to accord industry status to film-making. This will make producers and related technicians eligible to avail bank loans. Once the policy of screening through multiscreen theatres, TV channels and other movie theatres is confirmed and government starts buying movie rights and also financial support after completion of movie is announced, it will be easy to avail loans for various activities of film-making. The government may announce a 10-year tax break for movie making in Haryana, which would bring many movie makers to the state.
The government may announce film festivals each year which can be supported with themes related to government policies. Every year it may honour technicians, producers, singers, writers and producers. Such film festivals with regional and local entertainment could be great attractions to involve rural populations also, which is sizeable in number and has always been neglected when it comes to movie themes.
Haryana has an opportunity to showcase itself to global audiences as Gurugram is already a hub for Fortune 500 companies and the local dialect can be the new language of entertainment
The Haryana government already has a film training school which is lying dormant. This training school needs to be revamped and reorganised. The management of such school should be by local professionals connected with film-making and local background and not be a political appointee. Associations should be formed of local actors, writers, producers, extras and technicians who should necessarily be members of these associations to be part of any film-making in Haryana. This policy shall be related to Haryana and not influenced by the Mumbai film industry where, for working in films, it is essential to be a member of associations that are today being controlled by Bollywood.
All extras are charged and enforced by Bollywood associations and no outsiders are permitted, which increases the cost of making film. If the proposed system is put in place, film-making here would become cheaper for producers. Membership fee generated will give good revenue.
Shouldn’t the government also promote tourist spots, hotels and the hospitality industry?
The government may shortlist some tourist spots and provide all the necessary infrastructure required to make film such as hotels, food and beverages, security etc. Some of these spots could be Morni Hill, Kurukshetra, Badkal Lake, Pinjore garden, and Sohna lake The government can charge a fee of, say, 10,000 per day which would be utilised for upkeep and maintenance of these spots.
Heart of the Jat
The Haryanvi dialect is no longer seen as crude and guttural after the success of Sultan and Tanu Weds Manu Returns. Now Hindi film audiences are looking forward to Aamir Khan’s Dangal.
There was this general mentality that Haryanvi language is the sign of illiteracy and ill manners. But with very recent developments these stereotypes are changing about the mindset of the state and language as big Bollywood favourite stars and blockbusters are being seen acting and speaking in the same language.
The recent Bollywood blockbuster Sultan starring Salman Khan is based on the Haryanvi wrestler Sultan Ali Khan Cheema, who won medals and championships at various International levels. Salman Khan plays the character of the wrestler in the movie and shows his journey. Haryana is famous for its wrestlers and after Sakshi Malik won a Gold Medal in the Rio Olympics, the movie Sultan was praised for bringing feel of this popular Haryanavi sport to mainstream.
Dangal, where the lead role is being played by Aamir Khan and depicts the life of wrestler Mahavir Phogat Singh will also showcase Haryanvi culture, and language and should give a push to the Haryana film Industry. Mahavir quits his job to train his daughters in wrestling and is nearly ostracised in his conservative village in Haryana for letting his daughters into a sport considered a “man’s job”. However, his hard work results in his daughters Babita Kumari and Geeta Phogat winning the gold and silver respectively at the Commonwealth Games 2010 held in Delhi.
The trailer of Dangal strikes just the right chord for a power-packed sports film.
Some of the steps as suggested by Harish Kataria for the new film policy, if accepted, will go a long way in making the new film industry prosper. Besides, Haryana has a good opportunity to showcase its uniqueness to global audiences as Gurugram is already a hub for Fortune 500 companies. The government can discuss ways and means to coordinate with these multinationals by organising mega film festivals and drawing sponsorship and thus transform the Haryanvi dialect, seen as crude, as the new language of entertainment.