Sunday, September 28, 2008

At HAL it's Lights, Camera, Action...

At HAL it's Lights, Camera, Action...

From Vidhu Vinod Chopra to AVM productions, filmmakers are using Bangalore’s old airport to can fictional arrivals and departures

By Sameer Ranjan Bakshi
Posted On Saturday, September 27, 2008

Once or twice a week the old HAL airport comes back to life. Passengers mill about, some in nervous tension, others aimlessly, a few saying hurried goodbyes, many of them busy at the luggage carousel. A group of nattily dressed flight attendants swish past the security gates. In the distance, you can hear a Airbus revving up.

You shake your head in disbelief, wondering if you’re caught in some timewarp, or if, without your knowledge, the government has reneged on the BIAL contract and recommissioned the HAL airport. Then it dawns on you.

The strobe lights shrouded in canvas, the coils of cables and the overhead pylons attached to camera cranes are the only giveaway. Welcome to HAL airport’s new avatar, as a much-in-demand film locale.

After the shifting of the Bangalore airport to Devanahalli four months ago, the city’s once overcrowded and busy HAL airport had become a picture of desolation. The unattended tarmac had acquired a green mossy tinge while the empty arrival and departure lounges resembled some musty, cavernous mausoleum.

Of course, the airport is being used as a training centre for commercial airline and airforce pilots and is also used by VVIPs. But the general opinion was that the old airport would soon fall into disrepair or get converted into something else altogether. But then the AAI hit upon an innovative plan to reclaim some of the airport’s old glory. They decided to rent it out to the movie-makers.

The AAI allows production houses to shoot inside the terminal building and outside, charging Rs.28,000 per hour with a service tax of 12.38 per cent. It also allows still photography at the rate of Rs.300 per hour.

“Instead of keeping the existing infrastructure idle, we thought we can allow it for film shoots and earn money for the government. The international departure and arrival gives a real feeling of movies having been shot in international airports,” AAI’s joint general manager (commercial) B R Sena told Bangalore Mirror.

BOLLYWOOD QUEUES UP

Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s 3 Idiots, spun out of Chetan Bhagat’s best-seller Five Point Someone, and starring Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor amongst others, was shot here a couple of days ago. “Maddy (Madhavan) had come to the airport for the shooting. We brought our family members to see him and the shooting,” an AAI official said.

The film crew did not get enough time to shoot at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, so they hit upon the idea of picturising the movie at the HAL airport.

Practically, the film units find it difficult to shoot at working airports because of the hectic activity. “Lighting and working on different camera angles need a lot of time. Delhi or Mumbai airports are so busy that the film crew do not have the freedom to shoot at their own pace. It is here that the readily available facilities at the HAL airport come in handy,” said Sena.

Moreover, the HAL airport also helps film-makers avoid expenditure on erecting costly sets resembling an airport.

It is not just Bollywood, even Kollywood has used the airport. AVM Production’s Avan starring Surya was also shot between September 8 and 11.

The movie was shot for a total of 39 hours. “The film crew replicated the Chennai airport here. Mostly, scenes such as hero or the heroine arriving from abroad were picturised,” another AAI official said. The shooting, in a way provide great entertainment to the AAI staff, as the unit literally creates a busy airport by making the ‘extras’ play airhostess, pilots and flight stewards,” an official said.

Kannada film industry too has joined the bandwagon. While Ramu Enterprises’ Gulama, directed by Ranganath, was shot for two hours, the AAI has got a request from Shailendra Productions to shoot a yet-to-be-named film starring Upendra and Maya next month. Well, for the HAL airport, it seems there is still along way to go.

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