"I have been really pushing Farah to release the film during the Dubai International Film Festival, but she is not accepting this. I don't blame her. Films take time. It all depends on distribution and other things, but we would love to host its premiere at the Dubai International Film Festival, he said."
By Uma Ramasubramanian

Dubai, June 1 - Pocket friendly, state-of-the-art Dubai Studio City and world-class infrastructure - all this and more is turning Dubai into a favourite destination among Indian filmmakers and others. Discounts, soft incentives and flexible rules are on offer, says an official, but adds that one thing that can't be allowed is nudity.

From south Indian budget movies to Hollywood biggies, the Dubai Film and TV Commission (DFTC), which has partnered with Dubai Government entities, has opened the door for everyone and tried to simplify the filmmaking process.

If Farah Khan's forthcoming Happy New Year will have a Dubai backdrop, hits like Dabangg, Dabangg 2, Race and Welcome were shot here in the past.Also, a mix of Hollywood and Bollywood films - Do Not Disturb, Main Aur Mrs Khanna, Syriana, Switch, Unforgettable, and Casanova, among others, were shot in Dubai.

Happy with the increasing footfalls, DFTC Chairman Jamal Al Sharif told IANS: We are more than happy that unlike earlier when only a song or a scene was shot in Dubai, now with 'Happy New Year' and many films, the entire crew comes to Dubai to shoot for 20 to 25 days.

It is a huge achievement, he added.

DFTC is the entity authorised to issue shooting permits in Dubai on public or private properties.

We are here to connect Bollywood and Hollywood and provide a platform and infrastructure, said Al Sharif, adding: I don't think we can ever become Bollywood, but we could be a big support to Bollywood to connect with Hollywood at one place. It's a culture that needs to be built.

DFTC's aim is to increase media production in Dubai. It promotes Dubai as a filming destination for local, regional and international productions.

Shooting abroad entails higher production costs and keeping this in mind, DFTC is ready to discuss ways to reduce the cost and also provide financial incentives.

A lot of South Indian movies are being shot here, Al Sharif said, adding that in 2012, 19 films were shot in Dubai and 12 of them were from India and of the 12, seven were South Indian films.

The budgets of South Indian films are not that big. They vary between $50,000 and $200,000. We give as much discounts as possible. Today, we are giving soft incentives.

The budget of 19 films, which were shot in Dubai, didn't go above $6.5 million. The 12 from India didn't spend more than probably $2 million, so not that big, he added.

Dubai came under spotlight during the filming of Hollywood film Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Director Brad Bird shot it at Burj Khalifa, said to be the tallest building in the world.

The production team splurged about $25 million to $27 million to shoot the Tom Cruise starrer here.

'Mission Impossible' is a film on which I worked with my team from day one and this was for the first time a crew stayed here for two months. They shot 21 minutes of the film in Dubai and stayed here for two months with a rough budget of $25 to $27 million spent in Dubai, said Al Sharif.

Dubai was duplicated as India. For 'Mission Impossible', they wanted to go to India and my role was to keep them here. They wanted a palace, so I showed them a palace and they liked it. It was not an Indian palace, it was a Turkish design, but the producers loved it, he added.

To make the destination tech savvy, a huge studio - Dubai Studio City - has been built, which will allow filmmakers to shoot indoor scenes.

Apart from equipment, the studio also has a special underwater area for shooting such sequences.

So far so good.

There is one thumb rule that the filmmakers have to follow - they should avoid shooting any raunchy sequences here.

We stay away from nudity. We try to stay away from anything that could probably harm our nationality or religion. Otherwise we are open to everything, Al Sharif said.We have been very flexible. We don't want to control anyone. There has been a certain part of regulations mandated by the federal government of the UAE that we have to follow, he added.

After the success of Mission Impossible, many other films were shot here.

Now, Jamal hopes that Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Happy New Year would inspire filmmakers to shoot in the city.

Definitely we are hoping so, said Al Sharif.

I have been really pushing Farah to release the film during the Dubai International Film Festival, but she is not accepting this. I don't blame her. Films take time. It all depends on distribution and other things, but we would love to host its premiere at the Dubai International Film Festival, he said.

(Uma Ramasubramanian can be contacted at [email protected])


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