'Panchayat' to 'Stree': Why Directors Choose MP, the 'Most Film-Friendly State'

MP's popularity among filmmakers has sustained despite instances like ink-throwing and manhandling on sets.

3 min read
Hindi Female

From Panchayat, the popular Amazon Prime web series set in rural India, to blockbusters such as Padman, Dabangg 3, and Stree, the list of films and web series shot in Madhya Pradesh has only grown in the recent past. No wonder then that the state bagged the most-friendly state in the recent National Film Awards – its second time winning the honour since 2017.

When the state constituted the tourism board in 2016, the objective was to boost tourism and film production. Umakant Choudhary, Deputy Director (Adventure) of MP Tourism Board, told The Quint, "We have everything a filmmaker could dream of – marvellous locations; a diverse, culturally rich atmosphere; a talent pool of actors, and all the latest technology."

However, Madhya Pradesh has not had a spotless run. In 2021, filmmaker Prakash Jha and his crew were manhandled on the sets of web series Ashram 3 by members of the Bajrang Dal in capital Bhopal for the 'wrong portrayal of Hindus.'

As a fallout of the same incident, ink was thrown on Jha's face, and slogans of ‘Prakash Jha Murdabad,’ ‘Bobby Deol Murdabad,’ and ‘Jai Shri Ram’ were raised.

Then there were statements by state Home Minister Narottam Mishra and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan calling for a ban on director Ali Abbas Zafar's Amazon Prime Video web series Tandav in January 2021, followed by the row over the film poster of Kaali, and even over a kissing scene in the web series A Suitable Boy.

So, how do directors and filmmakers based in Bhopal perceive these 'instances'? And what do they have to say about the state's prospect for filmmaking?


'We Have Long Forgotten the Incidents'

In 2019-20, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government took a couple more steps to make film production a lucrative affair for producers in the state.

The film tourism policy, among other processes pertaining to film production, made permissions easier to procure with its single window system.

The policy also provides for financial grant of 25 percent or up to Rs 2 crore for feature films, 25 percent or up to Rs 1 crore for TV serials and web series, and a maximum of Rs 10 crore for international films, TV serials, and web series.

Apart from these, the policy introduced provisions for an additional financial grant of up to Rs 25 lakh for local artists of the state.

  • Stills from sets of movies and web series shot in Madhya Pradesh. 

    (Photo: Special arrangement/The Quint)

Zaid Ali, a line producer, says Madhya Pradesh gives filmmakers a "comfortable atmosphere to shoot films," adding that he doesn't worry about the "one-off instances because they haven't impacted their work."

Some trouble-making elements will always be present everywhere. The attack on our sets of Ashram 3 was a one-off incident. We immediately asked for police to help – and they were very prompt. We were given the security and the shoot was finished in Bhopal itself. We have long forgotten about the incident.
Zaid Ali

Ali, who has handled around 350 cinema production schedules, further says:

"When a shooting crew decides on a location, one of the most important focus areas is to find a place or region where they wouldn't have to face issues like public interference or disorder. MP has proved to be that state. Instances of a mob interrupting shooting to meet with the actors, or creating a nuisance on the sets, don't happen here. Who wouldn't want to work in a peaceful environment?"
Zaid Ali, Line producer

'People Are Cooperative'

Vikram Sharma, a producer/director based out of Bhopal, says people are very cooperative.

"Not just the actors and the film crew, but also the residents are cooperative. The actors and film crew members are very straightforward and down-to-earth. They won't let you wait for hours, they will be punctual, and their egos won't get hurt if something is out of order. And so, the overall atmosphere is just warm and welcoming."
Vikram Sharma, producer/director

Bhopal-based actor Rehan Abid Ali says the people of Madhya Pradesh, especially Bhopal, had always been very appreciative of theatres and theatre artists.

"Bhopal has always loved theatres and shows. And so, there is respect for the artists. This respect has been there for generations."
Rehan Abid Ali, actor

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from news and india

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More