Friday, 1 February 2013

After tourism, flight cancellation takes toll on film shootings in Manali

SHIMLA/ MANALI: It’s not just the tourism industry which has suffered the brunt of suspension of flights to Himachal, but according to sources with Bollywood film units, big banner movies having big stars are cancelling their shooting plans in Manali, which is reachable only after 10 hours exhausting road journey from Chandigarh airport.
Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai during a shooting in Manali
According to sources, no flight has been operated to any of the three airports of Himachal since September which has caused losses to the tune of over Rs 15 crore only to tourism sector. As it takes minimum of 10 hours to reach Manali from Chandigarh airport and 14 hours from Delhi airport, many filmmakers are opting out Manali from their shooting venue.
With snowcapped mountains, Manali provides a perfect backdrop for shooting between December and April. Dozens of small and big budget film units, commercials and music video album makers used to throng Manali during this season. But, except for one commercial and one film shooting unit, nobody has confirmed their arrival in Manali for shooting in next two months as it is not possible for all filmmakers to arrange for chartered aircraft.
 
Manoj Kumar, chairman of Himalayan Film Productions, who has worked as line producer for films like Maa Tujhe Salam, Diljale, Ishq, Jaal, Barsat and 1971, said indefinite cancellation of flights to Himachal is adversely impacting the shootings here. “Big stars do not have this much time to spend on travelling. They want comfort. Hiring charter plane for whole shooting unit is not that cheaper,” he said.
Aishwarya Rai in Manali
It is possible that the beauty of Himachal could be missing from movies in coming years. Manoj added that films are the best way of promoting tourism and he has noticed a big difference in last two decades ever since he is bringing shooting units to Himachal and other northern states of the country. “Shooting of 3 idiots at Pangong lake doubled the tourism in Ladakh. Similarly, outer world got to know about Manali after watching it on screen. Maintaining a distance by shooting units just because of transportation hurdles is not good sign for Manali and entire state,” he said.
Dozens of meetings, even more request letters regarding continuation of flights have been sent to various departments and ministers by tourism entrepreneurs and hoteliers that have ended up with nostalgic replies from government. In a new development, a group of hoteliers from Manali visited Himachal chief minister and repeated their request to restart the flights to Himachal and also improve the infrastructure here. At present the hotel occupancy rate in Manali is below 20 per cent and similar is the condition of Dharamshala, Dalhousie and Shimla.

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