Tinsel Times in Andhra
Naidu offers big sops to Telugu film industry to make Vizag its new hub
Nara Chandrababu Naidu is intent on luring the Telugu film industry from its present hub in Hyderabad to the port city of Visakhapatnam in his state Andhra Pradesh. The chief minister, who much like his father-in-law N.T. Rama Rao, lured the Telugu industry to move from Chennai to Hyderabad in the 1980s, is offering filmmakers extraordinary incentives.
Naidu’s offer: no entertainment tax on movies with budgets under Rs 4 crore; zero charge for shooting at most locations in the state; single window for clearances and permissions to film; subsidies from the Andhra Pradesh Film Television and Theatre Development Corporation; and priority allotment of land at reduced rates to set up studios. The government has set aside 350 acres outside Visakhapatnam for this.
To avail of these benefits, production houses need to be registered in Andhra Pradesh. For its part, the state government is also setting up a film institute named after NTR in its new capital, Amaravati.
State film corporation chairman Ambika Krishna believes the incentives “will help build a viable ecosystem for filmmaking” in the state. They are specifically targeting smaller filmmakers,
who account for 85 per cent of the Telugu movies produced every year.
Many in the industry are excited. “If the state manages the flow of funds and incentives and enforces easeof-business practices like for other industry sectors, regional productions will get a boost,” says well-known producer Daggubati Suresh Babu. Besides facilitating shoots, he says post-production facilities must also be set
up for Andhra to emerge as a centre for cinema.
While some are sceptical about two hubs for Telugu cinema, others point to the Malayalam movie industry, which is not restricted to a single centre. Naidu is keen to capitalise on the picturesque locales of Araku Valley, the Godavari delta and the rocky Rayalaseema terrain, which he hopes to transform into major tourism destinations.
But few filmmakers have so far shown interest. Producerdirector Tammareddy Bharadwaja says the state must clarify what it will do to promote film production, besides providing fiscal incentives. “Sops apart, the state should develop infrastructure in and around the shooting locales rather than offering land for studios and housing sites that end up as real estate propositions for those that get them,” says producer K.L. Damodar Prasad. He suggests that Andhra adopt Kerala’s practice of dispersing the film industry and linking it to tourism.
Naidu’s bag of incentives for Telugu filmmakers comes ahead of elections to both the state assembly and Lok Sabha next year. The elections in 2019 are expected to be quite a ‘filmi’ affair with two major biopics—glorifying NTR and another former chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR)—set for release ahead of the elections.
The NTR biopic is being made by Naidu’s actor-politician son N. Balakrishna. The movie about YSR, predictably, is being made by the former CM’s son, Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, and the YSR Congress. Movie-crazy Telugu audiences are not complaining.
BIG WAVE? A film shoot in progress on Beach Road in Vizag